Report: EU Close to Fining Microsoft

The European Union is close to imposing a 2 million euro per day fine on Microsoft for non-compliance with its March 2004 antitrust ruling. According to a Tuesday report in the Financial Times, a draft of a decision is to be presented Monday to the proper authorities.

From there, Neellie Kroes, the EU's competition commissioner, would deliver the ruling on July 12. Kroes will likely not see any resistance in implementing the decision from other members of the regulating body, as rulings are rarely overturned at this stage.

The fines for this judgment could practically double the already 497 million euro fine imposed initially. The European Commission has previously said that it would backdate the penalty to December 15. With a judgment coming nearly seven months after that date, the fine could be staggering.

The Commission has refused comment on the situation, saying no judgment has been reached in the matter as of yet. Lawyers for Microsoft contend that the company is trying to comply with the initial ruling, and any fine would be "unjustified and unnecessary."

The paper said that much of the non-compliance judgement deals with an order by the EU to provide "complete and accurate" data on the Windows operating system internals, so third parties may write software that can take advantage of these features.

Microsoft said it had already delivered five of seven different sets of documentation detailing these features. Another installment is due at the end of the month, with the seventh coming in mid-July.

Commenting on the report, the Americans for Technology Leadership, a consumer group of 40,000 members, said that "All American companies doing business in Europe should be concerned. This development makes clear that successful American companies will face a higher regulatory standard in Europe and that their entire global business strategy may be hostage to the whims of a few European regulators."

"It would be particularly troubling if the Commission were to impose such a fine while an appeal on the issue is still pending before the Court of First Instance. The CFI has a history of overturning EC decisions," the group added. "Does the EC intend to refund these fines after the fact if their initial order is overturned?"

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