The European Union’s antitrust regulator is preparing to launch an official investigation into a failure by Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) to comply with a 2009 ruling requiring the company to make it easier for users to choose a preferred web browser. Microsoft has already paid fines to the EU totaling about $1.3 billion and could be on the hook for as much as $7.4 billion in the current case.
Microsoft has blamed a technical foul-up for its failure to comply with the 2009 ruling. The company was supposed to deliver a browser choice screen to Windows 7 users in Europe and the company said that it believed it had such a screen available in the service pack update, the software was in fact not included. The company offered to extend the compliance period by 15 months in an effort to make up for the error.
Under EU rules, the company could be fined up to 10% of its revenues for the fiscal year ending in June 2012. That’s about $7.4 billion.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser now claims about 29% of the European market, compared with 29.3% for the Chrome browser from Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) and 30.3% for the Firefox browser from Mozilla.org.
And speaking of Google, that company is trying to resolve issues related to its business practices in Europe — practices called into question by Microsoft, among others.
Microsoft’s shares are down 0.6% this morning at $29.98 in a 52-week range of $24.26 to $32.95.