Yesterday, the European Union opened proceedings against Microsoft "to investigate possible non-compliance with browser choice commitments."
According to the press release:
The European Commission has opened proceedings against Microsoft in order to investigate whether the company has failed to comply with its 2009 commitments to offer users a choice screen enabling them to easily choose their preferred web browser.
On the basis of information it has received, 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. Microsoft has recently acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period.
Of course the kicker is that, "If it is found that a company has breached legally binding commitments, it may be fined up to 10% of its total annual turnover."
As the EU statement above says, Microsoft asserted in December last year that they were complying with the undertaking when it transpires they were not. 28 million installations worth of 'not.'
In response, Microsoft told Reuters, "Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the BCS (browser choice screen) software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7.
"While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologise for it."
The problem of course is that the EU would have expected that a declaration of compliance would have been backed with internal investigation and confirmation - clearly it wasn't.
Although there is reference to 10% of total turn-over, it is unclear what this means. European turn-over? World-wide turn-over? Trading turn-over or profit? Depending on the calculation, this could be as much as $US7B.
But of course they can afford that. Easily.