Europe threatens Microsoft with daily fines

Software giant faces fines of up to $2.37 million a day unless it complies with year-old order related to EC antitrust ruling.

The European Commission issued Microsoft a warning on Thursday that it could face a retroactive fine of up to $2.37 million a day for failing to comply with its antitrust order, based on its preliminary review.

The European Union's executive arm noted that the clock started ticking Dec. 15 and will continue until it makes its final decision in the landmark case against the software giant.

Microsoft was ordered by the Commission in March 2004 to disclose complete and accurate interface documentation to work group server competitors, in order for them to have full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers. That order was part of the Commission's findings that the software giant allegedly abused its market dominance to increase its presence in the work group, server operating system and media player industries.

The Commission, which held discussions with Microsoft about its compliance with its order and hired a trustee to monitor the company's compliance, set a Dec. 15 deadline for meeting the stipulations of its order. That order required Microsoft to supply complete and accurate interoperability information, making its software available on reasonable terms.

"I have given Microsoft every opportunity to comply with its obligations. However, I have been left with no alternative other than to proceed via the formal route to ensure Microsoft's compliance," Neelie Kroes, European competition commissioner, said in a statement.

Microsoft has five weeks to respond to the Commission's statement of objections. The Commission, which will consult with the advisory committees of member state competition authorities, would then issue a decision on whether to impose its fine of up to $2.37 million a day on Microsoft. The fine will be retroactively applied to Dec. 15 and the date that the Commission reaches a final decision on whether Microsoft has complied with its order.

Microsoft said it plans to contest the Commission's statement of objections and request an oral hearing on the issue.

"We believe today's statement of objections is unjustified. The Commission has issued this statement regarding technical documentation we submitted last week, even though, by its own admission, neither it nor the trustee have even

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