EU Members Back Massive Microsoft Fines

In a sweeping endorsement of the European Union (EU) case against Microsoft, all 25 EU members voted unanimously on Monday to support the European Commission's (EC's) plan to fine the company up to $2.6 million per day for failing to comply with EU requirements. The fines would be backdated to December 2005, sources say, and would continue daily until the software giant complied.

"We have differing views regarding compliance, but we're hoping that despite this, we can get to a point where we can move on from here," said Microsoft legal counsel Brad Smith. Microsoft says it's working to comply with the EC's demands but contends that the agency didn't provide the company with concrete compliance requirements until early this year.

In March 2004, the EU ruled that Microsoft had violated European antitrust laws. It fined the company and required it to offer a version of Windows that didn't include Windows Media Player (WMP) and to provide technical documentation for the protocols that let developers create software that interoperates with Microsoft's server products. Microsoft paid the fine and eventually released its Windows XP N Editions. But the release of its technical documentation has been marred by usability complaints. In December 2005, the EC told Microsoft it had failed to comply and offered the company a last chance to do so.

Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition, will consult with other EC commissioners over the next week, then make a final decision about the Microsoft penalty. She's expected to approve the fine and make an announcement to that effect by the end of next week. Microsoft, conceivably, could still comply with the EU ruling in the days ahead. On July 18, the company is expected to provide its latest batch of documentation.

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