Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has weeks to ensure his company is complying with a European Union antitrust order or face fines...
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has weeks to ensure his company is complying with a European Union antitrust order or face fines of as much as $5 million a day, the EU’s top antitrust regulator said.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes told Ballmer at a meeting in Brussels Tuesday that Microsoft risks fines as high as 5 percent of its daily revenue unless it abides by the antitrust order.
“We are not in a position to say that we are satisfied that Microsoft has complied fully with that decision,” European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd told reporters yesterday. Microsoft has “weeks rather than months” to comply, he said.
Tuesday night’s meeting was the highest-level talks between Microsoft and the commission since Ballmer failed to reach a settlement with former Competition Commissioner Mario Monti in March 2004. Less than a week later, Monti ordered the company to license some information to rivals, sell a version of its Windows operating system without a media player and pay a record fine of 497 million euros ($642 million).
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“The company is working as hard and as fast as it can to comply with the commission decision,” Tom Brookes, a spokesman for Microsoft, said.
The company is appealing the antitrust decision at the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg.
The orders of the European Commission require Microsoft to share its Windows server code with rivals so their products can better communicate on networks with machines running Windows.
“Over a year has elapsed and as of today we are not in a position to say that we are satisfied that Microsoft has complied fully with that decision,” Todd said.
He said that in Tuesday’s meeting Kroes made it abundantly clear to Ballmer that Microsoft had to fall in line quickly.
“Mrs. Kroes said that the commission expects the decision adopted in March 2004 to be complied with urgently and in full, and she added that unless this was the case that the commission would be obliged to take formal steps to ensure compliance,” Todd said.
He said the EU’s antitrust regulators were still not convinced that the Windows version the company was forced to produce without Media Player was technically up to standard. And questions remained over whether enough had been done to let competitors be interoperable with Microsoft’s system.
Information from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press is included in this report.