Microsoft battle to stop EU fine

Microsoft is to embark on a last-ditch charm offensive over the coming weeks to avoid paying a multibillion-dollar fine to the European Commission, which is preparing to make a ruling on its long-running antitrust investigation into the US software giant. Executive and legal advisers from Microsoft are expected to hold several discussions with competition regulators working for Mario Monti, the EU's Competition Commissioner, in the hope of reaching a settlement before the Commission delivers a ruling on the case. The Commission is circulating a draft decision that Microsoft broke European competition law and abused its dominant position in the market for computer operating systems. If made official, the decision could see the software company being fined as much as 10 per cent of its annual revenues, or about $3.2 billion (£1.75 billion).

Sources close to the discussions said that the Commission was hoping to make its ruling before May 1, when several nations join the European Union. Before then, they said Microsoft would intensify its efforts to reach a settlement. A Microsoft spokesman said: "This is a standard part of the process and Microsoft remains committed to working actively with the Commission towards an amicable solution." Signor Monti has accused Microsoft of continuing to abuse its monopoly in the software market long after settling an antitrust battle with the US Department of Justice. That case lasted five years and ended with Microsoft agreeing to make concessions to rivals. During its own four-year investigation, the Commission gathered evidence from more than 150 companies in the high-tech industry. Based on what it has learnt, the Commission alleges that Microsoft continues to stifle rival products such as RealPlayer and Apple's Quicktime by bundling its Media Player entertainment software with Windows.

News source: Times Online

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