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Microsoft was on Wednesday fined €280.5m for its failure to comply with the landmark antitrust ruling issued by the European Union’s top antitrust regulator more than two years ago.
The US software group was the first company ever to be punished for not abiding by a European Commission ruling. The fine comes on top of the record €497m penalty that the regulator imposed on Microsoft in March 2004.
Neelie Kroes, the EU competition commissioner, said: “It is now more than two years since the Commission’s March 2004 decision that found Microsoft to be in violation of the EU’s antitrust rules by abusing its dominant market position. The European Commission cannot allow such illegal conduct to continue indefinitely. No company is above the law.”
Microsoft responded in a statement that said: “We have great respect for the Commission and this process, but we do not believe any fine, let alone a fine of this magnitude, is appropriate given the lack of clarity in the Commission’s original decision and our good-faith efforts over the past two years. We will ask the European courts to determine whether our compliance efforts have been sufficient and whether the Commission’s unprecedented fine is justified.”
The Commission argues that Microsoft has failed to comply with a key element of the 2004 ruling, namely the order to share technical information about the group’s flagship Windows operating system with other companies. Brussels ruled that the information was necessary for rival software companies to design server software that is compatible with Windows.
The group insists that the information it has provided so far is sufficient.
However, the Commission issued a final warning to Microsoft last year, saying it had to deliver “complete and accurate” technical documentation by December 15 2005, or face fines of up to €2m a day for every day of non-compliance. The €280.5m fine is equivalent to daily fines of €1.5m for the period between December 14 2005 and June 20 this year.
In addition, the Commission on Wednesday raised the ceiling for future fines from €2m a day to €3m a day.