BRUSSELS: The European Union has initiated new antitrust charges against US software giant Microsoft, accusing it of effectively stifling competition by "tying" web browser Internet Explorer to its Windows operating platform.

Following a complaint by Norwegian firm Opera, the European Commission says Microsoft "distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage."

Microsoft now has eight weeks to respond to the EU's preliminary findings, and a company spokesman said it was "committed to conducting our business in full compliance with European law."

Internet Explorer has a market share of 60% in Europe, with Opera holding 5% and Firefox 3%, according to XiTi, with Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome also said to be increasing their presence.

However, Thomas Vinje, a lawyer for Opera, says: "If IE had not been tied to Windows, it would not have anywhere near the market share it does today."

The new charges follow previous actions by the EU relating to Microsoft's use of Windows with regard to its Media Player system, which resulted in the company receiving large fines.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff