Microsoft is in hot water in Europe, again, after failing to include a required browser “ballot” in Windows 7 for the better part of last year.

Bloomberg News reports today that European regulators are preparing a complaint against the company, formally known as a statement of objections, as a possible prelude to additional antitrust fines. EU regulators can impose fines of up to 10 percent of annual revenue, or more than $7 billion based on Microsoft’s fiscal 2012 results.

Under a 2009 deal with European regulators, Microsoft agreed to provide Windows users in Europe a choice of browsers other than Internet Explorer through a ballot-style “choice screen,” giving them a chance to default to Firefox, Safari Chrome, Opera or another browser.

Microsoft acknowledged in July that it had “fallen short of our responsibility.” The company said a technical error caused the browser ballot to be excluded from PCs running Windows 7 Service Pack 1, and it hadn’t been aware of the omission when it told the commission in December that it was complying with the settlement.

The company said at the time that it had distributed an update to reinstate the browser ballot, retained outside counsel to investigate the situation, and offered to extend the length of the agreement with the commission for 15 months beyond the original plan.

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  • Guest

    Yawn. Who is this “European Union” and what authority does it have over an American company?

    • guest

      They are more than capable of making a multi-billion dollar withdrawal from the bank of Micsosoft. MS has nobody to blame but themselves for this one. A totally self inflicted wound.

      • Guest

        Of course they’re not. Europe would fall apart if Microsoft were to withdraw its products from the continent in the face of some vague, bureaucratic threat. We predict riots in the streets of Athens if the EU tries to stop Windows from being sold there.

  • guest

    And still Ballmer avoids being fired. What more basic CEO duty is there than making sure your company follows the terms of its legal agreements, particularly when not doing so exposes the company to as much as $7 billion in fines?

    • AsokYoureFired!

      Oh don’t worry: some 20 year old A- (contractor) tester got fired for this I’m sure.

      Microsoft is a company that takes responsibility seriously. They’ll find the lowest ranking person who could be held responsible for this and punish him or her.

  • Guest

    I cannot believe this went on for a year and not a single MS exec, employee, reseller or OEM noticed. Embarrassing and inexcusable.

    • Livingthedream

      If you can’t believe it, you never worked there.

      I did.

      I believe it. Not only do I believe it, I could guess why it happened and likely be right.

      And, I can predict that it may well happen again in the future.

      There is no such thing as institutional memory in a company that reorgs every 6 months and rotates people around all the time.

      The person responsible for this originally and his/her management chain are all long gone and the people that came in behind them weren’t told about this and why it’s important.

      In fact, I bet someone even got credit on their review for removing a useless non-feature that encouraged people to not use IE.

      • guest

        Almost all of these people have been in place for years. The President of Windows, Stevesi, is also unchanged.

        So your lack of institutional memory argument doesn’t cut it.

        • Livingthedream

          You have to understand that you’re talking about people at a level where they don’t actually do anything meaningful except have meetings, quarterly reviews and rake in money as their Partner stock grants vest each quarter.

          At the level where real work gets done, turn over is constant and there is no real memory. The turnover is constant in part because those people you mention need something to do to “add value” so they reorg all the time and move people around.

          I’d bet good money that Sinofsky didn’t even know about/remember this requirement until the EU came knocking. And at that point you can bet screaming emails went down the chain until they landed on the neck of some poor PM standing in the square this was attached too as a responsibility but no one told him or her.

          This is why Microsoft constantly makes the same mistakes over and over again: no one is around to remember the last time that “great idea” went badly.

  • James McClintock

    Microsoft has the worst support staff on this earth. My wife and I spent 2hours trying to order the new Microsoft surface. I even had to call the bank we have a credit card with to have a hold on it because of invalid use of our credit card. Shame on Microsoft and their outsourcing of order support. I am 72 and have mild dementia. And Microsoft hire people who can speak english and take an order.

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