Microsoft confirmed today that the European Commission’s (EC) competition bureau has granted the company extra time to prepare its defense against allegations that it illegally tied Internet Explorer to Windows in the European Union (EU).
The case began in late 2007, when Norwegian browser maker Opera complained that Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) default bundling of IE with Windows unfairly damaged its efforts to build a substantial user base in the European Union countries.
In mid-January, 2009, the EC sent Microsoft a “statement of objections” – a sort of preliminary indictment – saying that the EC’s investigation found that Microsoft had illegally tied IE to Windows going back to 1996.
With the service of the statement of objections, the clock started ticking. Microsoft had 60 days to present a written response to the allegations and to ask for a formal hearing. That time limit was about to expire.
Wednesday, the company received a slight reprieve.
“Microsoft confirms that the date has been extended to April 21,” a company spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.
Microsoft informed shareholders, in its 10Q for the third quarter of its fiscal year in January, that it may be forced to bundle competing browsers with copies of Windows sold in the EU, should the EC ultimately decide against the company.
Two weeks ago, the EC signaled it is prepared to do just that should it ultimately conclude that Microsoft is guilty as charged.
Also, in the past few weeks, two other browser competitors, Google and Mozilla, joined the case as interested third parties aligned with Opera.
An interview request to Jonathan Todd, spokesperson for the EC’s competition bureau, who is located in Brussels, was not returned by press time.