Intel antitrust decision sent for review by Europe's top court

Sep 07, 2017, 01:57
Intel antitrust decision sent for review by Europe's top court

Europe's top judges dealt a rare blow to European Union antitrust regulators on Wednesday by sending their case against USA chipmaker Intel Corp back to court for an appeal.

The decision could embolden companies challenging the European Commission, the bloc's antitrust authority, in court over competition decisions-cases the regulator typically wins.

Intel was originally hit with a record €1.06bn fine imposed by the European Commission in May 2009 for having abused its dominant position in the processor market.

It found that Intel had given wholly or partially hidden rebates to PC manufacturers such as Dell and Lenovo for using its chips rather than those of rival AMD, and that Intel had also directly paid computer manufacturers to scrap or delay the launch of products using non-Intel chips.

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In conducting the AEC test, as it is abbreviated in the ruling, the commission determined that Intel's customer rebates meant that a competitor could not offer viable prices if it wanted to be as efficient as Intel.

The ruling by the Court of Justice of the EU (ECJ) may force the European Commission to re-examine its tough line and economic approach in other antitrust cases such as against Qualcomm and Alphabet unit Google.

On Wednesday, Intel got what it wanted: The CJEU ordered the General Court to reexamine Intel's arguments concerning its capacity to restrict competition.

Google's case has more similarities than Apple's, but U.S. tech multinationals have long complained that fines are politically motivated, and will be cheered by a decision in Intel's favour.

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After the ruling, Intel had tried to annul the decision or reduce the fine in General Court.

The ruling could have implications for Alphabet's (GOOGL) Google and Apple Inc.

The EU General Court is now slated to examine Intel's arguments that it did not violate antitrust laws, raising the possibility for the chipmaker to avoid paying the $1.26 billion in full.

Intel also awarded payments to the electronics retail group Media-Saturn in order that the group would sell only those computers containing Intel's x86 CPUs.

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Intel then appealed to the General Court, second only to the European Court of Justice, but lost the case in 2014.

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