EU Court Chucks $1.2B Antitrust Fine Against Intel

Posted September 07, 2017

On Wednesday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) chose to set aside the judgment of the General Court "as a result of that failure in its analysis of whether the rebates at issue were capable of restricting competition".

On Wednesday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) told the General Court - a lower EU chamber - to re-examine Intel's appeal against the antitrust fine and set aside its earlier judgement that had upheld the initial 2009 decision.

The European Commission (EC) slapped Intel with the fine in 2009 after ruling that the company had abused its dominance in the processor market by offering rebates to PC makers that used its chips instead of those made by competitors.

Historically, European courts have effectively rubber-stamped European Commission antitrust decisions and fines.

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Because Intel held at least 70 percent of the market share, the commission found that it qualified as having a dominant market position.

The commission is also investigating whether or not Qualcomm unfairly paid Apple to use its chips for the Cupertino, Calif. -based company's iPhones.

The ruling to send the case back to EU General Court says that previously, not all of Intel's arguments were taken into account when making the final ruling.

In an email to AFP, an European Union spokesman said the commission "takes note of today's ruling. and will study the judgement carefully".

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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 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 a year ago, and is the latest stage in a long history of the case.

It could also give dominant companies more freedom over how they offer rebates and discounts.

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.

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It has also fined Google €2.4 billion for fiddling online shopping searches and has threatened to fine it €5 billion more on the way it sells its Android operating system.