EU Court Backs Intel's Appeal of 2009 Fine, in Blow to Regulator

Intel claims a victory against EU over €1bn antitrust fine after ECJ ruling

Intel has claimed a victory in its decade-long dispute with competition authorities in Brussels.

The ruling ends by saying: "The Court refers the case back to the General Court so that it may examine, in the light of the arguments put forward by Intel, whether the rebates at issue are capable of restricting competition".

In 2014 the EU's General Court had upheld the earlier antitrust decision - but, according to Bloomberg, the ECJ said the judges failed to properly analyze the economic aspects of the case.

Intel was fined in 2009 when the Commission found that between 2002 and 2007, the company had offered incentives to computer makers Dell, Lenovo, HP and NEC if they bought all of their x86 microprocessors from Intel instead of a rival, AMD. The company allegedly gave rebates to computer manufacturers on condition that they bought all, or nearly all, their CPUs from Intel, making it hard for rivals to compete on price.

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The blow to the European Commission could have implications for other open investigations into pricing by dominant companies including cases against Google and Qualcomm, the telecommunications equipment supplier. The verdict means Intel has escaped the original fine for now, although the case could drag on for many more years.

An Intel victory could have direct bearing on a similar Commission case involving payments by USA chip maker Qualcomm to computer firm Apple.

For that infringement of European Union competition rules, the Commission fined Intel €1.06 billion and ordered it to end the infringement.

The General Court in its 2014 ruling upheld the European Commission's 2009 decision but a year ago a court adviser recommended backing Intel's arguments.

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At the time, the Commission also said that Intel had paid three computer manufacturers to delay, cancel or restrict the launch or distribution of computers containing CPUs made by AMD.

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

"Companies will be more confident when they go to the Commission and more corporations will have the appetite to take the Commission to court on effects-based arguments", he said.

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