Intel's €1.06 billion antitrust fine to be revisited in European Union court

Intel was fined in 2009 for abusing its monopoly position
Credit
AFP

In a move that may have ramifications for EU cases against Qualcomm and Google, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) said a court which upheld a 1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) fine against Intel should re-examine the company's appeal.

On remand, the General Court must consider Intel's argument about whether the rebates were capable of restricting competition.

According to court documents, the European Court of Justice today referred Intel's case back to the lower General Court, which had denied the appeal in 2014. The EC takes that view that Intel had tried to block rival chipmaker AMD by giving rebates to PC makers for buying most of their computer chips from Intel.

The regulator said Intel broke European Union competition rules when it granted rebated to major computer manufacturers - Dell, Lenovo, HP and NEC - on the condition that purchased all their x86 CPUs from Intel, thus diminishing the ability of competitors to compete.

The CJEU's decision to ask the General Court to look again at the case is in line with the advice given to it in a non-binding opinion issued by an advocate general to the court in October past year, and is the latest stage in a long history of the case.

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Today's ECJ ruling could mean dominant companies feel they have more flexibility in offering rebates to high-volume buyers, suggested Komninos - adding that that could ultimately lead to cheaper priced products for consumers.

Last year, Ireland was ordered to claw back €12bn in unpaid taxes from Apple, with the Commission ruling that the company's arrangements in the country amounted to illegal state aid.

The Court of Justice sidelined two other arguments by Intel, namely that the commission lacked territorial jurisdiction to penalize it, and that procedural irregularities affected its rights of defense.

The General Court has been asked to further explore how Intel's customer rebates may have restricted competition. The EU also said Intel made payments to electronics retailer Media Saturn Holding on the condition that it only sold computers containing Intel's microprocessors.

The CJEU has now ruled that the General Court was obliged to consider Intel's arguments on the point and to determine whether the Commission had applied the "as efficient competitor" (AEC) test correctly. It was superseded by the $2.7 billion antitrust fine the European regulatory body imposed on Google in June.

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