European Union gives Microsoft eight weeks to respond to a list of objections over the way it includes its Web browser with the Windows operating system.
January 16, 2009: 5:56 PM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — The European Commission accused Microsoft Corp. Friday of violating competition law by including its Internet Explorer Web browser in Windows operating systems.
The executive arm of the European Union said it had reached the preliminary view that the company had prevented rival browsers from competing and had infringed EU rules on abuse of dominant position.
It said Microsoft had eight weeks to reply to the "statement of objections" it sent to the company, in which it threatened to impose a fine on the U.S. software giant if its preliminary findings were confirmed.
"In the statement of objection, the Commission sets out evidence and outlines its preliminary conclusion that Microsoft's tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice," the EU executive said in a statement.
"If the preliminary views expressed in the statement of objection are confirmed, the Commission may impose a fine on Microsoft, require Microsoft to cease the abuse and impose a remedy that would restore genuine consumer choice and enable competition on the merits," it added.
Microsoft said in a statement it was studying the Commission's views and did not rule out requesting a formal hearing.
Microsoft cited the Commission as saying in its own statement that remedies put in place by U.S. courts in 2002 after antitrust proceedings also did not make Windows-Explorer bundling lawful.
Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) and the EU have engaged in a running battle over competition issues for years, and the U.S. company has been fined more than 1 billion euros in all for allegedly abusing its 95% dominance of personal computer systems through its ubiquitous Windows software.
Microsoft controls an estimated three-quarters of the Web-browsing market through Explorer.