Microsoft to face EC antitrust charges -

Microsoft is set to feel the wrath of the European Commission over its failure to provide browser choice in Windows.

European competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia has indicated that Microsoft will be subject to formal charges after the company appeared to breach a 2009 antitrust agreement with the EC.

In a statement, Almunia claimed that Microsoft had "failed to keep its promise" by allowing a number of products to be shipped without a browser choice screen for customers.

"To meet one of our concerns, the company pledged to let consumers choose which web browser they would use with its Windows operating system," he said. "By its own admission, Microsoft has failed to keep its promise. I take compliance very seriously and we are now considering the next steps."

Almunia confirmed that the "next step is to open a formal proceeding" against the company, Reuters reported.

Microsoft has claimed that shipping software without a browser choice was due to a computer glitch.  It is likely that the EC will argue that at the very least, the company should have taken more care to ensure that Microsoft upheld its end of the bargain, struck in 2009.

The EC recently indicated that Microsoft had agreed to comply with antitrust rulings. Competition chief Almunia confirmed he had met with CEO Steve Ballmer, who made assurances that Microsoft would immediately address any concerns.

However, with formal proceedings beginning, the EC could now take stronger action, as Microsoft's previous offer to extend its antitrust agreement by 15 months is unlikely to carry much weight.   

One legal expert claimed that Microsoft's negligence could lead to "significant fines" running into the hundreds of millions of euros.