Microsoft has been wacked with a massive $730M fine by astruggling European Union.
The fine was for breaking its promise to offer millions ofusers of its Windows operating system a choice of rival Web browsers; Microsofthas blamed a "technical error" for the problem.
This is not the first time that Microsoft has had a fallingout with the EU who has previously fined the US software Company $2.1 billionfor failing to provide rivals with information at fair prices and for tying itsmedia player to its operating system.
The European Commission said that Microsoft is the firstcompany to break a voluntary agreement with regulators, which would haveallowed at least 15 million consumers to pick alternatives to its InternetExplorer browser.
The penalty was the latest episode in over a decade ofwrangling between the US Company and the European government.
EU competition chief JoaquÃn Almunia had warned that hewould use the noncompliance fine to set an example to other companies thatmight break similar promises in the future.
"Such a breach is, of course, very serious,irrespective of whether it was intentional or not, and it calls for asanction," Mr. Almunia said in a prepared statement. "I hope thisdecision will make companies think twice before they even think ofintentionally breaching their obligations or even of neglecting their duty toensure strict compliance."
The Wall Street Journal said that Microsoft struck a dealwith the commission in 2009 to address long-running concerns related to the waythe company's Web browser was tied to its Windows personal-computer operatingsystem, which at the time had a 90% market share in Europe.
Microsoft promised to offer users a "choicescreen" until 2014 to allow them to switch to other browsers. Despiteearly implementation, regulators later received a complaint from a third-partyand spotted that the choice had been removed from February 2011 until July2012. Internet Explorer's market share has dropped to just under 30% from 50%,which the commission said is partly because of the introduction of the choicescreen.