Microsoft to pay $733 million for violating browser deal

European regulators have fined Microsoft 561 million euros, or $733 million, for failing to keep its promise to offers users a choice of competing Web browsers for the Windows 7 operating system.

The fine stems from the European Commission’s 2009 antitrust probe into whether Microsoft was taking advantage of its dominant market position to force its Internet Explorer browser on users.

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EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia

Microsoft settled the investigation by agreeing to create a screen where users could choose among rival browsers.  The EU made the concession legally binding to resolve any competition concerns in Europe.

However, the EU issued the fine March 6 because the software giant did not comply with the agreement between February 2011 and July 2012.  Microsoft also acknowledged that the options screen was not displayed during this period, according to the EU.

In a statement, the commission said this is first time it has fined a company for non-compliance with a settlement agreement.

“In the calculation of the fine, the commission took into account the gravity and duration of the infringement, the need to ensure a deterrent effect of the fine and, as a mitigating circumstance, the fact that Microsoft has cooperated with the commission and provided information which helped the commission to investigate the matter efficiently,” the EU said.

Microsoft said it takes “full responsibility” for the technical issues that caused the problem, according to a statement from the company.

“We provided the commission with a complete and candid assessment of the situation, and we have taken steps to strengthen our software development and other processes to help avoid this mistake, or anything similar, in the future,” Microsoft said.