EU Says Microsoft Still Responsible for Billion-Dollar Fine in Antitrust Ruling

The European Union’s second-highest court upheld an earlier billion-dollar ruling against Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) on Wednesday for failing to comply with antitrust rules and charging rivals “unreasonable” prices for access to its software.

Microsoft said it was disappointed with the court ruling, which lowered the fine by 4.3% to 860 million euros ($1.07 billion) from 899 million euros originally, but did not indicate whether it planned to appeal to the EU’s highest court.

The software developer had argued with the European General Court that the fine, which at the time given in 2008 was the largest-ever imposed on a single company, was not justified.

The charges imposed by the European Commission were related to an antitrust regulation passed in 2004 that called for Microsoft to provide rivals enough information to design products that could run on its Windows PC operating system.

At the time, Bill Gates lashed out against the fees, saying that providing competitors such information would give them the ability to “castrate” his new operating system.

As expected, the Commission welcomed Wednesday's court ruling, saying the judgment "confirms that the imposition of such penalty payments remains an important tool at the Commission's disposal."

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft's failure to have the ruling overturned potentially sets the stage for what could be a series of disappointing rulings in appeals cases heading forward.

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is set to appear before the court starting July 3 in an attempt to overturn a 1.06 billion euro penalty imposed on the Commission in 2009, which, replacing Microsoft, is the highest ever by the EU on a single company.