Wednesday 23 May 2018

Intel wins court backing to fight €1bn EU antitrust fine

Intel hopes to overturn a €1.06bn fine. Stock photo
Intel hopes to overturn a €1.06bn fine. Stock photo
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Intel has kept its decade-long scrap with European Union competition authorities alive after Europe's top judges told a lower court to re-examine the case.

It boosts Intel's hopes of overturning a €1.06bn fine and will also buoy the hopes of other US tech firms including Apple, that have been in sights of the Competition Commission, now headed by Margrethe Vestager.

European Court of Justice (ECJ) judges said the lower court, known as the General Court, should focus on Intel's arguments that rebates to customers were not anti-competitive.

The ruling 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.

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

"The Court of Justice sets aside the judgment of the General Court, which had upheld the fine of €1.06bn imposed on Intel by the Commission for abuse of a dominant position," the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice (ECJ) said.

"The case is referred back to the General Court in order for it to examine the arguments put forward by Intel concerning the capacity of the rebates at issue to restrict competition," the ECJ said.

The Commission slapped Intel with a then record fine in 2009 following a probe launched in 2007, reasoning that Intel had tried to block rival Advanced Micro Devices by giving rebates to PC-makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Lenovo for buying most of their computer chips from Intel. (Additional reporting Reuters)

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