Intel achieves major victory as the court abolishes a fine of 1.2 billion

Jan 26 (Reuters) – Intel on Wednesday won its battle against an EU cartel fine of 1.06 billion euros ($ 1.2 billion) that the US chip maker was sentenced to 12 years ago for strangling a rival, in a major setback for EU antitrust authorities.

The ruling by Europe’s second highest court in support of Intel’s arguments is likely to encourage the Alphabet (GOOGL.O) entity Google in their fight against hefty EU antitrust fines and Apple, Amazon and Facebook, which are on the EU antitrust enforcers’ cruise.

The European Commission punished Intel in 2009 for trying to block rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD.O) by giving discounts to computer makers Dell (DI.UL), Hewlett-Packard Co, NEC (6701.T) and Lenovo (0992). HK)) to buy most of their chips from Intel.

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The Luxembourg-based Court, the second highest in Europe, criticized the analysis of EU competition enforcers and annulled the fine.

“The (European) Commission’s analysis is incomplete and does not make it possible to establish in the required legal standard that the rebates in question were capable of or likely to have anti-competitive effects,” the judges said.

The court annulled the entire article of the contested decision, which imposed a fine of EUR 1.06 billion on Intel for the infringement.

The Commission said it would study the verdict and consider possible next steps.

The Intel Corporation logo appears on a display in a store in Manhattan, New York City, USA, November 24, 2021. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly / File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD

The same court had in 2014 upheld the Commission’s decision from 2009, but was subsequently notified by the European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest, in 2017 to reconsider Intel’s appeal.

Regulators generally do not like discounts, especially those offered by dominant companies, due to concerns that they may be anti-competitive. However, companies say regulators need to prove that rebates have anti-competitive effects before sanctioning them.

The decision will complicate the task of the regulator, said Assimakis Komninos, partner at the law firm White & Case.

“This is a huge victory for Intel. It puts the bar higher for the Commission in bringing dominance cases. It will have to do a power-based analysis for each case. This will have an impact on all companies,” he said.

The ruling can be appealed to the European Court of Justice.

The case is T-286/09 P Intel Corporation v Commission.

($ 1 = 0.88661 euros)

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Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing Louise Heavens and Bernadette Baum

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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