EC hits Microsoft with €280m fine
The European Commission fined Microsoft 280.5 million euros ($357.3 million) on Wednesday to punish its failure to comply with a landmark 2004 antitrust ruling.
The tough new penalty is the first of its kind and comes on top of a record 497 million euro fine the Commission imposed on Microsoft in March 2004 for abusing its dominant position.
"Microsoft has still not put an end to its illegal conduct. I have no alternative but to levy penalty payments for this continued noncompliance," Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement.
The fine covers the period from December 16 last year, the deadline set by EU regulators for Microsoft to make available key information to rivals, to June 20. It was computed by multiplying 187 days of violations at 1.5 million euros per day.
It fell short of a possible maximum 2 million euros per day. If Microsoft fails to comply with the Commission ruling by July 31, it would face a maximum possible fine of 3 million euros per day.
The move signals the Commission's determination to force Microsoft to obey its order to share key information with rivals and a loss of patience after the company had two years to comply and used every available legal avenue to spin out the process.
The Commission's hard-line approach contrasts with that of the United States which in 2000 had similar findings against Microsoft but is still awaiting technical documents from the company as ordered by the U.S. Justice Department in 2002.
Within months after the Commission first threatened the fine, Microsoft started working quickly to come into compliance.
According to an agreed-upon schedule, the company is supposed to deliver the final results on July 18.
Microsoft says it has made huge efforts to comply with the Commission's 2004 ruling and has 300 people working to meet the EU executive's requirements by the deadline.
It calls the fine unjustified, but says that will not slow its effort to comply. Microsoft, which has appealed every ruling against it so far by the Commission, can appeal this ruling to the European Union's Court of First Instance.
The court is already considering an underlying challenge by Microsoft to the Commission ruling, and conducted a hearing in April on it.
After years of investigation, the Commission found in 2004 that Microsoft used near-monopoly power from its Windows operating system to harm competitors making work group servers, which run printing and sign-on services in offices.
The Commission ordered Microsoft to give rivals the information needed so their work group servers could compete on a level playing field with Microsoft's own. The company must help its rivals interconnect smoothly with Windows.
Microsoft was supposed to ready the information for competitors by June 2004.
The company tried to have the sanctions suspended until it could complete a court challenge to the 2004 decision, but late that year a judge said no.