The European Commission, the EU's executive body, has begun a probe whether Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) has failed to comply with browser choice commitments the company made in 2009.
The Commission believes that Microsoft may have failed to roll out the choice screen with Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011. This is despite the fact that, in December 2011, Microsoft indicated in its annual compliance report to the Commission that it was in compliance with its commitments.
From February 2011 until today, millions of Windows users in the EU may have not seen the choice screen, the Commission said.
Microsoft has recently acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period.
"If following our investigation, the infringement is confirmed, Microsoft should expect sanctions", said Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the Commission in charge of competition policy.
On December 16, 2009, the Commission made legally binding on Microsoft commitments offered by the US software company to address competition concerns the Commission had raised with respect to the tying of Microsoft's web browser, Internet Explorer, to its dominant client PC operating system, Windows.
Specifically, Microsoft committed to make available for five years in the European Economic Area a "Choice Screen" enabling users of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 to choose in an informed and unbiased manner which web browser(s) they want to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft's web browser.The choice screen was provided as of March 2010 to European Windows users who have Internet Explorer set as their default web browser.
The Commission has now opened proceedings against Microsoft to investigate possible non-compliance with browser choice commitments, particularly the commitment to provide a browser choice screen to Windows 7 users.