Report: EU will announce Microsoft antitrust fine Wednesday

Microsoft will be hit with a large fine for failing to live up to its 2009 settlement agreement, according to The New York Times

The European Commission is expected to levy a large antitrust fine on Microsoft Wednesday for not abiding by a requirement to provide customers with a choice of browsers, The New York Times is reporting.

Following the report, the Commission's Wednesday schedule was released and it includes a statement on an unnamed antitrust issue from competition chief Joaquin Almunia. Commission officials refused to say which case is involved, but Microsoft seems likely given reports by the Times, which did not provide any information about its sources for the news, and other media, which cited unnamed sources.

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The company was found by the Commission to have breached European Union competition laws by providing only its Internet Explorer browser with Windows in 2009. The company was ordered to include a browser choice page in its upgrade to Windows 7. The browser ballot screen was set as a requirement by the Commission following an anticompetitive ruling against Microsoft in 2009.

However, following an upgrade in 2011, the browser option page disappeared. Mozilla claims that Microsoft's browser ballot omission for 16 months resulted in 8.8 million fewer downloads of Firefox than would otherwise likely have occurred.

Microsoft has repeatedly said this was an oversight that it regretted and blamed a "technical fault." Nonetheless, Joaquin Almunia charged Microsoft last October for failing to honor its commitments and is on the record as saying he wanted the case tied up by the end of this month.

This would be the first time the Commission has fined a company for failing to follow a settlement agreement, something Google will be watching closely as it too is under investigation by the antitrust chief. Almunia could impose a fine of up to 10 percent of Microsoft's global annual revenue.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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