US computer giant Microsoft has been hit with a record £650 million fine by the European Union for fleecing rivals who wanted information to make their software work with Windows.
EU regulators said the company had charged ‘unreasonable prices’ to software developers who wanted to make products compatible with the Windows desktop operating system.
The fine is the largest ever imposed on a single company, and means Microsoft has now been penalised a total of nearly £1.2 billion by Brussels for unfair competition in the computer market.
In March 2004, Microsoft was fined £306 million and ordered to share ‘interoperability’ information with rivals within 120 days.
But the EU said the company delayed complying with that order for three years, only making changes last October.
EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said Microsoft’s actions had stifled innovation, hitting millions of people who used computers in offices around the world, and called the latest fine ‘a reasonable response to a series of quite unreasonable actions’.
Microsoft immediately said the fines were about past issues that had been resolved and that the company was now working under new principles to make its products more open.
Which? Technology Editor Matthew Bath said:’The fine by the European Commission is the largest it has ever imposed, and it continues to pile pressure onto Microsoft.
‘Microsoft is still being investigated by the European Commission for abusing its dominance of the PC market to increase its share of the internet market, and this move marks the first time a company has been fined for failing to comply with an anti-trust decision by the European Commission in 50 years.’