The European Commission is about to propose a new fine of up to €460 million against Microsoft for failing to honour the 2004 antitrust decision against it, according to people close to the case.

The Commission ruled two years ago that Microsoft was abusing its dominant position in the market by denying competitors access to documentation about its Windows operating system.

The imminent threat of a fine comes as Microsoft continues to submit new information to the regulator, with the aim of complying with the ruling. The final instalment of documentation is due on July 18 - a deadline Microsoft said it agreed with the monitoring trustee in charge of overseeing Microsoft's compliance with the ruling, Neil Barrett.

Slap the giant

Europe's top antitrust regulator has proposed a new negative ruling and a new fine against Microsoft to national competition regulators from the 25 countries in the European Union, the people close to the case said.

A final decision could be taken by the Commission as soon as July 12, if the national regulators support the Commission's draft ruling.

Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd declined to comment on the content of the draft decision but confirmed that it was imminent.

"We have said for some time we would decide whether or not to impose daily fines on Microsoft before the end of this month," he said.

European regulators have teeth

If the Commission sets the fine at €2 million a day, as it has threatened to in recent months, the fine would reach €460 million by July 18, the date Microsoft submits the final instalment. The calculation counts all seven days of the week and dates back to December 15 when the Commission found Microsoft in breach of its 2004 antitrust ruling,

This would be nearly as much as the record €497 million fine the Commission imposed on Microsoft in the first place.

"Any fine would be unjustified and unnecessary," said Horacio Gutierrez, associate general counsel of Microsoft Europe in a statement on Tuesday.

"The Commission's process calls for an advisory committee meeting, so this comes as no surprise," Gutierrez said.

But he added that Microsoft has committed "massive resources" to providing the technical documentation required in the 2004 ruling.

Five out of seven

Microsoft "has already delivered five of seven instalments of technical documentation developed to the agreed specification and according to the agreed work plan," Gutierrez said.

The sixth is due at the end of this month and the final submission will be handed over on July 18, he said.

"Microsoft is working hard to also meet those deadlines," Gutierrez said.

Microsoft could be fined even if the seven instalments of documentation do satisfy the regulator, one person close to the case said. "Even if they change their ways in the future that doesn't get them off the hook for the period starting last December," the person said.

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