Microsoft Admits Violating EU Agreement Over Browser Ballot, Blames 'Technical Error'

Paul Lilly

Microsoft is once again in hot water with European Union (EU) antitrust officials, this time for failing to fully comply with a 2009 settlement in which the Redmond software company agreed to give customers a choice of which Web browser to use when installing Windows. For the most part, Microsoft had been doing that, except in some instances where PCs shipped to European customers with Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 pre-installed.

"Under a December 2009 decision of the European Commission, Microsoft is required to display a 'Browser Choice Screen' (BCS) on Windows PCs in Europe where Internet Explorer is the default browser. We have fallen short in our responsibility to do this," Microsoft said in a statement . Microsoft added that, "Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the BCS software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7.

This is the only scenario Microsoft admits falling short on its agreed upon obligation, noting that it "missed serving the BCS software to roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1." European customers who purchased PCs running the original version of Windows 7 or relevant versions of Windows XP and Vista were unaffected, Microsoft claims.

It's unclear whether EU officials will fine Microsoft for its oversight. For its part, Microsoft is taking steps to show it's acting in good faith. Within just one business day of learning about the "technical error," Microsoft fixed the problem on new PCs and distributed BCS software to ones that had already shipped. Microsoft also offered to voluntarily extend its browser agreement with the EU for an additional 15 months.

"We understand that the Commission will review this matter and determine whether this is an appropriate step for Microsoft to take," Microsoft said. "We understand that the Commission may decide to impose other sanctions."

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