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EU Fines Microsoft $732 Million

European regulators say the software giant broke a promise to offer users of its Windows operating system a choice of Internet browsers.

LONDON -- European regulators on Wednesday fined Microsoft $732 million (€561 million) for failing to live up to a promise to offer millions of users of its Windows operating system a choice of Internet browsers.

The European Commission said the fine was punishment for Microsoft's non-compliance. The tech giant became the first company to break a deal reached voluntarily with EU regulators, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The agreement, reached in 2009 and in effect through 2014, called for 15 million consumers to have the opportunity to pick alternatives to Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft previously blamed a technical error for its failure to comply with the arrangement, which required the company to offer an on-screen choice of Web browsers.

EU regulators previously said that this so-called choice screen wasn't showing up for more than a year in 2011 and 2012.

"Legally binding commitments reached in antitrust decisions play a very important role in our enforcement policy because they allow for rapid solutions to competition problems," said Joaquin Almunia, the EU's competition commissioner. "Of course, such decisions require strict compliance. A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai