Intel’s €1bn European fine quashed

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

The General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg has overturned a ruling that imposed a €1.06 billion fine on Intel back in 2009 for anticompetitive practices.

Some 12 years ago Intel was found guilty of providing rebates to four major computer manufacturers – Dell, Lenovo, Hewlett Packard and NEC – on condition they bought all, or nearly all their processor chips from Intel. It also found that Intel paid three computer manufacturers, HP, Acer and Lenovo, to postpone or cancel the launch of products based on processors from rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. or to put restrictions on the distribution of these products.

This happened between October 2002 and December 2007, according to the complainant AMD, and Intel was fined €1.06 billion (about US$1.2 billion).

Intel appealed against the ruling with a defence that the European Commission was wrong to rule the discounts anticompetitive without checking if they actually shut out the competition – principally AMD. Another defence was that the behaviour took place outside Europe and therefore outside the European Commission’s jurisdiction.

The European General Court in Luxembourg dismissed the appeal in 2014 and Intel’s recourse was to appeal to European Court of Justice. In September 2017 the appeal was referred back to the General Court. The General Court has now ruled in favour of Intel’s argument that the European Commission’s analysis was incomplete and did not prove the rebates were capable of having an anticompetitive effect.

The European Commission said it would study the judgment and consider possible options.

Meanwhile Intel is expected to announce a location in Europe for a major semiconductor manufacturing site.

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