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ECONOMICS REPORT - European Union Fines Microsoft -- Again

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I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

The European Commission ruled Wednesday that Microsoft is still using its powerful market position illegally. The top European Union official for competition policy ordered a fine of more than two hundred eighty million euros. The amount is almost three hundred sixty million dollars. Microsoft said it would appeal in court.

In March of two thousand four, the commission ordered Microsoft to release technical information about its Windows operating system. At that time, the commission fined the company almost five hundred million euros.

The order was meant to permit competitors to create software that can operate with Microsoft products. It is estimated that more than ninety percent of personal computers in the world use Windows.

Brad Smith is Microsoft's top lawyer. He released a statement from the company headquarters in Redmond, Washington, after the fine was announced. Mister Smith says Microsoft has already provided thousands of pages of technical documents. He says the March two thousand four decision was not clear and that clarity is the real issue.

Mister Smith says Microsoft finally received a clear definition of the requirements this April and has already met nearly all of them. He says the company has "over three hundred employees working around the clock" to finish by July twenty-fourth. And he says it is hard to understand the huge fine when, in his words, "the agreed-upon finish line is just days away."

Neelie Kroes is the European Union commissioner for competition policy. She says the two thousand four decision was completely clear. She noted that a European court had ordered Microsoft more than eighteen months ago to release the information without delay.

Mizz Kroes said Microsoft did not even come close to providing complete information as demanded. This is the first time the European Union has fined a company for failing to meet an anti-trust decision. If Microsoft does not satisfy the commission by July thirty-first, it faces possible fines of three million euros per day. That is almost four million dollars.

Bill Gates and his friend Paul Allen started Microsoft in nineteen seventy-five. Microsoft earned just under three thousand million dollars in profit in the period from January through March of this year.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. You can download transcripts and audio of our reports at www.unsv.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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