Microsoft could be on the hook for over €300 million in fines levied bys the European Commisison due to its noncompliance with the conditions of the EU’s 2004 landmark antitrust decision. Apparently, the EC is prepared to rule that Microsoft has yet to fully comply with terms of the decision. Should that happen, the software giant would be liable for a €2 million per day fine, retroactive to December 2005, which is when the EC first ruled that the company was not fully complying with its ruling.
After the 2004 decision, Microsoft was fined €497 million and ordered to create a version of Windows XP without media-playing functionality. In addition, it was instructed to open up and better document its server protocols so that competitors’ products could more smoothly interoperate with its own.
Microsoft has appealed the findings, but was forced to implement the sanctions in the meantime. This resulted in the release of a version of Windows that nobody really likes and an attempt by Microsoft to properly license and document the protocols in question.
It’s the second issue that is vexing European regulators. Faced with a February 2006 deadline for opening up the protocols, the company responded by informing the EC that it had already complied with that portion of the sanctions. However, the open source community has been highly critical of Microsoft’s efforts and there has been additional criticism of the state of Microsoft’s documentation. Microsoft admitted that the documentation could be a bit better and subsequently offered to license the source code itself, an offer that the EC declined.
In a statement, Microsoft said that it has "committed massive resources to the technical documentation program" and expects to be in full compliance by the EC’s deadline.
As the EC’s antitrust oversight body now has a draft ruling in hand stating that the company has not fully complied with the sanctions, Microsoft could find itself reaching for its checkbook in the very near future. The Financial Times reports that the draft ruling should be finalized soon and may be delivered as early as July 12 by EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.