Microsoft’s multi-million fine is upheld by Europe General Court

City A.M. Reporter
MICROSOFT yesterday lost its appeal against an EU decision penalising it for defying an antitrust ruling, bringing nearer to an end a decade-long battle with the European Commission over the US software group’s business practices.

However, judges at the General Court – Europe’s second-highest – reduced the fine by 4.3 per cent to €860m (£688.9m) from the €899m imposed in 2008 which amounted to just over two per cent of Microsoft’s revenue for the fiscal year ended 30 June 2008.

The Commission imposed the penalty – a record at the time – four years ago after Microsoft defied an antitrust decision issued four years previously by delaying the provision of information to make business easier for its rivals.

At the time, the EU regulator said Microsoft had not complied with its order for 488 days.

“The General Court essentially upholds the Commission’s decision imposing a periodic penalty payment on Microsoft for failing to allow its competitors access to interoperability information on reasonable terms,” the court said in a statement yesterday.

But it cut the fine “to take account of the fact that the Commission had permitted Microsoft to apply, until 17 September 2007, restrictions concerning the distribution of “open source” products.”

Microsoft expressed disappointment at the verdict but did not say if it would appeal to the EU Court of Justice, Europe’s highest.

“Although the General Court slightly reduced the fine, we are disappointed with the court’s ruling,” the company said in a statement.

EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia welcomed the court ruling, saying: “The judgment confirms that the imposition of such penalty payments remains an important tool at the Commission’s disposal.”