European Union court orders Intel antitrust fine to be re-examined

Posted September 08, 2017

The company had allegedly done this by trying to force AMD out of the micro-processor market.

The European Commission imposed the fine in 2009, finding that the USA - based microchip manufacturer abused its dominant position for the x86 CPU.

However, Intel appealed against the General Court's decision to the CJEU.

Intel is among the few companies to have continued a battle against a European Commission fine all the way to the top EU court.

An earlier appeals court ruling in the summer of 2014 had upheld the original decision. "The case should be referred back to the General Court for a fresh review".

By applying its test, whatever its merits, the Commission found that Intel had forced out what it deemed to be an equally efficient competitor after offered rebates and payments in exchange for exclusivity.

An equally plausible interpretation of the decision is that rebuttals can exist if, and only if, the Commission relies on the AEC test when determining anti-competitive behaviour, Lianos adds. It said the General Court was wrong not to examine its arguments to this effect when assessing its appeal. The commission in 2009 argued that the chip maker violated the bloc's antitrust rules because dominant companies' use of rebates are by nature restrictive of competition. The General Court's failure to do so was an error in law, it said.

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The officials alleged eight years ago that Intel had engaged in "illegal anticompetitive practices to exclude competitors from the market for computer chips".

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), the bloc's highest court, ruled that the General Court, a lower tribunal, should reconsider an appeal by United States microchip maker Intel. It said this exercise will involve "the examination of factual and economic evidence".

"The Commission takes note of today's ruling by the European Court of Justice (Case C-413/14 P) and will study the judgment carefully", a spokesperson for the European Commission said in an emailed statement.

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.

Eriksson said the ruling is significant in this part from a United Kingdom perspective with Brexit in mind.

"This is certainly a defeat for the European Commission and indicates a certain relaxation of the formalistic case law on abuse of dominance", said Assimakis Komninos, a lawyer at White & Case.