Microsoft facing EU browser fine by end of March claim insiders

Microsoft faces a potentially huge fine from the European Union over its PC browser choice goof last year, with insiders claiming the penalty will be imposed before the end of March. "The Commission is planning to fine Microsoft before the Easter break" a source familiar with the investigation told Reuters; though the exact amount Microsoft faces in penalties is unknown, there are whispers that it will be considerable since this will be the second time the company has not complied with the EU.

Microsoft fell foul of "a technical error" which meant that some Windows PCs failed to show the browser selection screen the company had agreed to install on new computers, after complaints that preloading Internet Explorer as the default app amounted to anti-competitive behavior. All went well, until a glitch in the system meant 28m PCs failed to show the screen, a problem which went unnoticed for more than a year.

The EU warned Microsoft it would be taking action back in October 2012, and at the time the maximum fine that could be levied was totaled up as in the region of $7.4bn. That's not necessarily going to be the final amount, but the number could easily dwarf the not-inconsiderable $2.1bn Microsoft has already paid in various antitrustpenalties.

An EU spokesperson declined to comment on the rumors. Microsoft is also yet to comment on the possibility of a March punishment, though the company did give a statement late last year regarding the gaffe.

"We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it. Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we are strengthening our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again. We sincerely apologize for this mistake and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commission" Microsoft

Microsoft's board has already spanked Steve Ballmer, metaphorically speaking, with a bonus cut last year, justified in part by the antitrust issue. Whether the company's executives will face further censure will likely depend on the amount of the new fine.