Intel wins review of European Union competition fine

In a victory for Intel's lawyers, the EU's top court today ordered a retrial of the chipmaker's appeal against a €1.06 billion antitrust fine, ruling that a lower court should have delved further into the European Commission accusations.

The EU's Court of Justice sent the case back to the lower General Court to re-examine Intel's arguments against the European Commission's decision. The Brussels-based antitrust regulator accused the company of using discounts to hurt Advanced Micro Devices Inc., a decision backed by a lower European Union court in 2014.

The decision is a slap for a European Commission which has not lost a major anti-trust case in decades.

Intel was accused of engaging in illegal, anti-competitive practices to exclude competitors from the market for CPUs. "The case should be referred back to the General Court for a fresh review". The verdict means Intel has escaped the original fine for now, although the case could drag on for many more years.

The ruling could be limited to the facts of the Intel case (involving rebates and payments between companies) and have less impact on factually unrelated antitrust cases.

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The EC has two more outstanding investigations into other areas of Google's business, including its mobile operating system Android which is focused on the conditions the company places on mobile device makers to bundle other Google services onto devices in order to also be able to offer the Google Play app store.

The judge, Nils Wahl, questioned whether there was substantial evidence that the company's actions actually harmed competition, saying: "Intel's appeal against the imposition of a €1.06bn fine for abuse of its dominant position should be upheld".

"This is certainly a defeat for the European Commission and indicates a certain relaxation of the formalistic case law on abuse of dominance", he said in a statement.

The initial penalty, which represented around 4.15 percent of Intel's 2008 revenues, was record-breaking at the time, but has recently been overtaken by a €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) penalty against Google in June.

  • Megan Austin