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Rediff News  All News  » Business » EU slaps record fine on Microsoft

EU slaps record fine on Microsoft

March 24, 2004 19:45 IST

The European Union on Wednesday slapped the world's largest software firm Microsoft Corp with a record fine of $613 million (497.2 million euros) for violating European Union antitrust law, said Forbes.

The EU found Microsoft guilty of abusing its 'near monopoly' with Windows to squeeze competitors in other markets and told it to take immediate steps to stop destroying software rivals.

Microsoft, meanwhile, said it would appeal the record fine levied against it by European regulators for 'abusing its dominant market position.'

Microsoft is to make the appeal before the Court of First Instance, the company said in a statement.

The EU's antitrust authority said that 'because the illegal behaviour is still going on,' it was also demanding changes in the way the US software company operates.

It gave Microsoft 90 days to offer a version of Windows to PC manufacturers without its digital media player, and 120 days for Microsoft to release 'complete and accurate' interface code to rivals in the server market so their products can have 'full interoperability' with desktop computers running Windows, said the report.

Microsoft has said it will take the decision to European Union courts in Luxembourg and try to get the remedies delayed until final appeals are over, a process that could take four to seven years or more. 

Microsoft has just over two months to file its promised appeal. It also is expected to ask the EU's Court of First Instance to suspend the order during the appeal process, which could take years, said the report.

The order goes beyond the 2001 US settlement on similar antitrust charges and aims at the heart of Microsoft's business strategy of regularly adding new features to Windows to help sell upgrades.

Many companies have been fined 50 million euros or more by the European Commission for anti-competitive practices including abuses of monopoly status and price fixing, said Forbes.

The biggest fines the European Commission has imposed are:

  • 1. Microsoft, 2004, abuse of near-monopoly status, euros 497.2 million.
  • 2. Hoffman-La Roche AG, 2001, vitamin cartel, euros 462 million.
  • 3. BASF AG, 2001, vitamin cartel, euros 296.16 million.
  • 4. Lafarge, 2002, plasterboard cartel, euros 249.60 million.
  • 5. Arjo Wiggins, 2001, carbonless paper, euros 184.27 million.
  • 6. Nintendo, 2002, restrictive distribution practices, euros 149.1 million.
  • 7. BPB, 2002, plasterboard cartel, euros 138.60 million.
  • 8. Degussa Ag, 2002, methionine cartel, euros 118 million.
  • 9. Volkswagen, 1998, for restrictive distribution practices, euros 102 million, reduced to euros 90 million by the Court of First Instance.
  • 10. Hoechst AG, 2003, sorbates cartel, euros 99 million.
  • 11. Knauf, 2002, plasterboard cartel, euros 85.8 million.
  • 12. SGL Carbon, 2001, graphite electrode cartel, euros 80.2 million.
  • 13. Tetra Pak, 1991, abuse of dominant position in liquid packaging, euros 75 million.
  • 14. Mercedes Benz, 2001, violating rules on car distribution, euros 72 million.
  • 15. ABB, 1998, heating pipes cartel, euros 70 million.
  • 16. UCAR, 2001, graphite electrode cartel, euros 50.4 million.