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EU could slap Microsoft with formal charges in browser choice case

Microsoft's failure to adhere to the European Commission's "browser ballot" requirement could result in formal charges, according to a new report.

As noted by Reuters, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters in Warsaw that the organisation is "working on" opening a formal proceeding against Microsoft for its browser missteps.

Almunia said he does not expect the investigation to last too long since Microsoft has already acknowledged its mistakes, Reuters said.

Almunia's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The controversy dates back to 2009, when the European Commission announced that Microsoft violated European competition law by bundling its Internet Explorer browser with Windows. As a result, Microsoft said it would ship a version of Windows 7 with a "browser ballot" that would allow users to select which browser they wanted during the OS installation process. The EU approved that plan in December 2009 and it started rolling out two months later.

Earlier this year, the commission notified Microsoft that it had received reports of people not seeing the browser screen choice (BCS). Microsoft said it investigated and discovered that users of Windows 7 service pack 1 were not seeing the browser ballot due to a technical error. A fix started rolling out to PCs running Windows 7 SP1 in early July.

The EU opened an investigation and Almunia said at the time that "if following our investigation, the infringement is confirmed, Microsoft should expect sanctions."

In late July, the EU said its investigation had expanded to include accusations that Redmond discouraged computer makers from providing access to rival browsers, limited API access, and ditched support for other browsers in Windows RT.

Microsoft has not commented publicly on the controversy since admitting the glitch in a July blog post.