EU hearing on Microsoft antitrust case in June

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union antitrust regulators have set a hearing next month for Microsoft to respond orally to EU charges that it sought to stymie rivals by tying the firm’s Web browser to its Windows operating system.

The closed hearing will be from June 3 to 5, European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said.

“It will be an opportunity for Microsoft to state orally the arguments they outlined in their response to the statement of objections,” he said.

U.S. software giant Microsoft replied to EU antitrust charges, the so-called “statement of objections,” on April 28. The EU’s executive arm charged the company on January 15 with infringing EU rules by abusing its dominant position.

By bundling its Internet Explorer with Windows, Microsoft shielded its browser from head-to-head competition with rival products, harming innovation and reducing customer choice, the Commission had said.

Internet Explorer’s global market share in February was 67.4 percent, with the Mozilla foundation’s Firefox browser a distant second at about 22 percent, according to market research firm Net Applications.

Microsoft has said the Commission may order it and equipment makers to obligate users to choose a particular browser when buying a computer or that multiple browsers be made available on new Windows-based computers. It could also get a hefty fine.

Microsoft was fined 899 million euros ($1.2 billion) in February on charges it used high prices to thwart rivals and for not complying with a previous antitrust decision by the Commission.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Dale Hudson