Microsoft fined $733 million for breaking browser pactCredit: Getty Images

by TOBY STERLING / Associated Press

Posted on March 6, 2013 at 6:41 AM

Updated yesterday at 9:54 AM

AMSTERDAM  — The European Union has fined Microsoft (euro) 561 million ($733 million) for breaking a pledge to offer personal computer users a choice of Internet browsers when they install the company’s flagship Windows operating system.

The penalty imposed by the EU’s executive arm, the Commission, is a first for Brussels: no company has ever failed to keep its end of a bargain with EU authorities before.

In 2009, Microsoft Corp. struck a broad settlement with the Commission to resolve disputes over Microsoft’s abuse of the dominance of Windows, which had spanned more than a decade.

The company agreed to pay (euro) 860 million and promised to give Windows users the option of choosing another browser rather than having Microsoft’s Internet Explorer automatically installed on their machines.

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But Microsoft failed to stick to the deal for some 15 million installations of Windows 7 in Europe from May 2011 until July 2012. The company admitted the failure last year, adding that it was an oversight.

The Commission’s top regulator, Joaquin Almunia, said at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, Wednesday that the fine reflected the size of the violation and the length of time it went on. It was also intended to make an example of Microsoft and deter other companies from doing same thing.

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