Microsoft hit with formal charges in European 'browser choice' case

Microsoft has been hit with a formal complaint from the European Union over accusations it did not comply with a 2009 order from regulators to give customers a choice of Internet browsers, the Associated Press has reported.

Antitrust regulators have sent the Redmond, Washington-based company an official statement of objections that accuses it of failing to properly provide customers with the ‘browser choice screen’ it committed to offer to millions of Windows users.

The European Commission "takes the preliminary view that Microsoft has failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011. From February 2011 until July 2012, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen. Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period,” the regulatory body said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Microsoft was told by the commission that it had received reports of people not seeing the browser screen choice. In response, Microsoft said it investigated the matter and found that a technical error was to blame for users of Windows 7 service pack 1 were not seeing the browser ballot. The company began rolling out a fix for the issue in early July.

The investigation is still ongoing and Microsoft has been given four weeks to respond to the formalised complaint. The company could be hit with a fine of up to 10 per cent of its annual revenue if found to have violated European antitrust regulations.

Meanwhile, the EU will not look into similar complaints over Microsoft's Windows RT tablets, European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has said.

"There are no grounds to pursue an investigation on this issue," Almunia told reporters at a news briefing in Brussels.