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Ingrid Marson

Special to CNET

Microsoft has publicly apologized and compensated Web directory, one of MSN’s main competitors in Holland, after the software giant’s anti-spyware product incorrectly flagged the site as malicious.

A Microsoft representative confirmed on Thursday that the Windows AntiSpyware beta prevented people from setting Startpagina as their home page. The representative said this problem has now been fixed in the latest update of the program.

“Microsoft has posted a notice on the Web sites of Microsoft Netherlands and Microsoft Belgium that includes an appeal to download the new version of Windows AntiSpyware and provides an apology for the difficulty this issue may have caused and its users,” the representative said.

The representative added that Microsoft would not disclose the details of the settlement.

Bert Wiggers, the director of Startpagina, said on Thursday that he was unable to state the exact amount of money involved but it was not a significant sum. “There was a small amount of money involved,” Wiggers told ZDNet UK. “The most important thing for me is that they offered an apology.”

Wiggers claimed that Microsoft had been slow to react to the problem.

“In the end Microsoft reacted to my letters and phone calls, although they didn’t react in the first few weeks,” Wiggers said. “I was angry, because the Microsoft software called my site malicious, but they have now repaired the damage they caused.”

Startpagina is one of MSN’s main competitors in the Netherlands. In January, received 7.7 million unique visitors, while and attracted 7.1 million and 6.4 million respectively, according to figures from online-measurement company Multiscope.

Microsoft’s apology to can be seen here (in Dutch).

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.