EU warns Microsoft over missing browser ballot

The European Commission has issued a formal warning to Microsoft over the absence of the browser ballot in Windows 7 Service Pack 1.

EU warns Microsoft over missing browser ballot

Microsoft was ordered to offer European customers a choice of browsers, but neglected to include the ballot in SP1, meaning it wasn’t shown for more than a year.

The Commission said it took a “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”.

If companies enter into commitments, they must do what they are committed to do or face the consequences

“From February 2011 until July 2012, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen,” it added. “Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that period.”

Microsoft hasn’t technically been found guilty of anything, as it still has a hearing to offer a defence. If Microsoft is found to have breached the order, it faces a fine up to 10% of its annual turnover.

“If companies enter into commitments, they must do what they are committed to do or face the consequences,” EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia told a press briefing, according to Reuters. “Companies should be deterred from any temptation to renege on promises or even to neglect their duty.”

Microsoft said it took the issue seriously, adding that it would “cooperate fully” with the investigation.

“Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we are strengthening our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Windows RT browser

It wasn’t all bad news for Microsoft, as Almunia said the EU would not be investigating browsers in Windows RT, after complaints that the ARM-based version of Windows 8 limits how browsers other than Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer can work.

“We have looked at Windows RT and on the basis of our investigation so far, there are no grounds to pursue further investigation on this particular issue,” he said.

In May, a Mozilla lawyer accused Microsoft of returning to the “digital dark ages” by locking down browsers in Windows RT. “In practice, this means that only Internet Explorer will be able to perform many of the advanced computing functions vital to modern browsers in terms of speed, stability and security to which users have grown accustomed,” said Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s general counsel in a blog post at the time.

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