Microsoft (News - Alert) has been warned by European regulators not to again block consumers’ options when selecting a competitor’s Web browser in the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, according to news reports.
“Microsoft has failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011,” the regulators said in a recent statement. “From February 2011 until July 2012, millions of Windows users in the EU may not have seen the choice screen.”
Microsoft had promised to offer Europeans until 2014 a "choice screen" to let Windows users select which Web browser they wanted instead of or in addition to the one from Microsoft.
Earlier this year, the commission began an investigation into compliance issues related to browser choice.
“The Commission had expressed concerns about the tying of Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer, to Windows, the dominant client PC operating system,” Joaquín Almunia, vice president of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, said in a recent statement. “When Microsoft launched Windows 7 Service Pack 1 in February 2011, the choice screen was no longer displayed…This means that those users have not seen the choice screen in the period from February 2011 to July 2012."
If a company violates its commitments, it may be fined up to 10 percent of its total annual turnover. In Microsoft’s case fines could be $7.4 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, news reports said.
“If companies enter into commitments, they must do what they have committed to do or face the consequences,” Almunia added.
Microsoft has four weeks to respond to the regulator’s statement, and can request a hearing to present its case.
Meanwhile, Microsoft claims it has made changes in the browser choice screen that will be used in Windows 8.
"After discussions with the Commission, we are changing some aspects of the way the browser choice screen works on Windows 8 and will have those changes implemented when Windows 8 launches later this week," Microsoft spokesman Robin Koch said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
"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," the company added.
Microsoft will launch Windows 8 and the Surface tablet computer in the United States and China on Friday, according to the AFP.