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Intel’s €1.06 billion antitrust fine overturned by EU court

The European Commission has said it will carefully study the judgement and reflect on possible next steps, which could include an appeal

The European General Court has annulled the European Commission's (EC) decision to fine Intel €1.06 billion in 2009, issued after the chip company had implemented a strategy to exclude its competitors from the market.

At the time, the commission ruled that Intel had abused its dominant position in the worldwide market for x86 processors between October 2002 and December 2007. The strategy involved the company giving rebates to computer makers Dell, HP, NEC, and Lenovo for buying most of their chips from Intel, in an attempt to block its rival AMD.

However, the General Court, Europe’s second-highest, ruled on Wednesday that the analysis carried out by the EC was incomplete and failed to establish the requisite legal standard that the rebates were capable of having, or were likely to have, anticompetitive effects. The court has now dismissed the fine against Intel.

“We welcome today’s ruling by the General Court as we have always believed that our actions regarding rebates were lawful and did not harm competition,” said Intel general counsel Steve Rodgers. “The semiconductor industry has never been more competitive than it is today and we look forward to continuing to invest and grow in Europe.”

The General Court upheld the EC’s 2009 decision in 2014 but was told by the European Court of Justice in 2017 to re-examine Intel’s appeal.

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The EC is able to appeal before the Court of Justice against the General Court’s decision within two months and ten days of notification of this decision. The EC told IT Pro it has taken note of the judgement and will now carefully study it and reflect on possible next steps.

The decision could boost the confidence of other tech firms who are currently appealing antitrust fines in Europe, including Google, which has appealed to overturn a €4.34 billion fine given to it by the EC in 2018. It was the largest antitrust fine handed out by the regulator, with the EC claiming that the tech giant is abusing its power by forcing smartphone manufacturers to adopt Android and its associated apps.

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