Software giant Microsoft may be on the hook for billions of dollars in fines from European regulators for failing to comply with a 2009 commitment to give European PC users a choice about which browser they want installed when setting up Windows. Beginning in March 2010, the company was supposed to begin offering a choice screen during Windows setup offering a choice of eleven different browsers. The company initially complied with the requirement, but stopped offering the choice when it released the first major update for Windows 7 in February 2011.
In addition to its own Explorer browser, the so-called choice screen was supposed to also prominently display Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome and Opera. To be displayed less prominently per Microsoft's agreement were Avant, Flock, Green, Maxthon and several others. To make matters that much worse, Microsoft has submitted several compliance reports to the European Commission claiming that it was honoring its commitment, which the company recently admitted it was not. Should regulators determine that Microsoft did indeed fail to comply, it can be fined as much as 10 percent of its annual revenue, or nearly $7 billion based on last year's sales.
In a statement, Microsoft offered an apology for failing to follow through on its agreement, blaming the issue on a “technical error” which it says it only discovered after the EU informed it of the missing choice screen. "We have fallen short in our responsibility," read a statement from the Redmond, Washington software powerhouse. "While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologize for it." The company went on to say that it is working to resolve the missing choice screen and should have a solution in place by the end of the week.