Tuesday 24 April 2018

Intel to hear if appeal against €1.1bn EC fine can succeed

European fine was slapped on world’s biggest chip-maker in 2009. Photo: Bloomberg
European fine was slapped on world’s biggest chip-maker in 2009. Photo: Bloomberg
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Tech giant Intel will find out this month whether its last-ditch effort to overturn a record €1.1bn fine imposed by the European Commission has any hope of success.

The world's biggest chip-maker was slapped with the fine in 2009 after the European Commission accused it of squeezing out competition from a smaller rival, Advanced Micro Devices.

An advocate general at the European Union's Court of Justice will deliver an opinion on the chip-maker's appeal on October 20.

The opinion isn't binding on judges who heard the case, but such opinions are typically followed by the court. It will also be crucially important for the Commission that it succeeds in thwarting Intel's appeal.

If Intel wins, the Commission will be undermined at a time when it's also forcing Apple to pay Ireland €13bn in taxes it claims the tech firm should have paid here.

The Commission found that Intel gave hidden rebates to computer-makers including Dell and Hewlett-Packard on condition that they bought all, or almost all, of their main processors from Intel.

Intel also made direct payments to Europe's largest PC retailer - Media Saturn Holdings - on condition that it stocked only computers with Intel processors, the Commission said.

The chip-maker also made payments to some computer makers to stop or delay the launch of products containing a rival's processors.

The Commission said the anticompetitive behaviour diminished the competitors' ability to compete on the merits of their own processors.

In 2014, Intel's first appeal in the case was rejected by the European General.

The Commission said that decision was significant because it justified its pursuit of Intel's anticompetitive conduct in a major worldwide market.

In its latest appeal, Intel argued that the Commission had failed to analyse "all relevant circumstances" to determine if the rebates did in fact result in rivals being squeezed out.

Intel has claimed that the General Court erred in finding an infringement for the final two years of the alleged infringement period, given that, at most, the market coverage of the conduct during those years "would have affected a mere 3.5pc of the relevant market".

It has argued that the General Court "disregarded a number of relevant factors that should have been considered", such as the duration of the alleged practices.

Irish Independent

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