Microsoft lumped with £485m fine by EU over browser choice error

For failing to give Windows users the choice when it comes to web browsing software in a recent update, Microsoft has been hit with a whopping £485 million fine by the European Competition Commission.

It might seem odd to think that Microsoft has to offer Windows users the choice of browser when it offers its own Internet Explorer and alternatives are readily available online, but back in 2009 the tech giant was accused of using its weight to make PC users use Internet Explorer.

Since that accusation Microsoft agreed to offer browser choice to new Windows users, and it has done ever since – new Windows PCs will pop up with a browser choice window during the first time setup, allowing the user to install and use alternatives like Firefox and Chrome.

However, the Service Pack 1 update to Windows 7 that was launched in February 2011 left out the browser choice option. Whilst the service pack fixed a host of problems found in the first release of Windows 7, this error eventually caused huge problems for the Redmond tech company.

Microsoft has explained that whilst the relevant code for the browser choice option was present in the update, it wasn’t properly written and therefore users would not see the window that allowed them to pick a browser. This meant that over 15 million Windows users were ‘forced’ to use Internet Explorer (until they headed online and downloaded something else, of course), thus costing Microsoft a little over £32 per person affected.

“We take full responsibility for the technical error that caused this problem and have apologised for it,” a Microsoft spokesman said.

Interestingly, Apple isn’t forced to and doesn’t offer browser choice to new Mac users – Safari is installed as the default, although other browsers such as Chrome can be installed later by the user.