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EU Regulators Are Said to Back Microsoft Fine

July 04, 2006|From the Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium — In a major step toward new penalties against Microsoft Corp., Europe's antitrust regulators voted unanimously Monday to support fining the world's largest software company for flouting a 2004 ruling, sources said.

The regulators backed European Union plans to penalize the company but did not discuss the amount of the fine -- which they will do at another meeting next week, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because no formal decision has been reached.

The European Commission threatened in December to levy fines of as much as $2.5 million a day against Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft for not complying with an order to supply rivals with "complete and accurate" information to help them develop software that works smoothly with Microsoft's Windows operating system, which runs on most of the world's personal computers.

Under the rules, the commission must consult regulators twice -- once on the principle of the ruling and on the amount -- before it announces the fine. Regulators agreed on the principle Monday.

The commission declined to comment on Monday's meeting.

Microsoft said it was working to meet deadlines to fix problems with the technical information it was compiling so that rivals could better work with its operating system.

Microsoft said it had a team of 300 people working full time on a framework to supply the information. Six of seven installments have already been delivered, it said.

Late last year, independent trustee Neil Barrett, a computer science professor, reported that 12,000 pages needed an overhaul to make them workable.

Microsoft has said that any fine at this stage would be "unjustified and unnecessary" while it was still working to comply with the ruling.

Shares of the company rose 40 cents to $23.70.

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