Intel gets second chance to appeal $1.25B antitrust fine

Intel Reports Quarterly Earnings

The highest court in the European Union has ordered a €1.06 billion ($1.4 billion) antitrust fine against Intel be re-examined, heralding a victory for other technology companies now facing similar investigations from Europe.

However, Intel appealed the fine and took its appeal to the European Court of Justice after a lower court agreed with the European Commission.

In 2014 the EU's General Court had upheld the earlier antitrust decision - but, according to Bloomberg, the ECJ said the judges failed to properly analyze the economic aspects of the case.

The Commission had said Intel had offered its clients price rebates to use its computer chips in preference to those of rival Advanced Micro Devices In (AMD).

The General Court's new treatment of Intel's appeal is likely to add between two to four years to the process, making the case more than a decade old before it is finally decided.

The Commission had originally claimed that Intel abused its dominant position on the worldwide market for so-called x86 Central Processing Units (CPUs) from October 2002 to December 2007.

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"The court refers the case back to the general court so that it may examine, in the light of the arguments put forward by Intel, whether the rebates at issue are capable of restricting competition", it concluded. In a case similar to Intel's, Google was accused of abusing the dominance of its search engine to promote its own services at the expense of rivals.

It could also make United States tech giants Apple, Facebook, and Google less quick to settle in their European Union disputes by dinting the Commission's invulnerable reputation and by increasing the burden of proof about "restricting competition" on the Commission side.

Today's ECJ ruling could mean dominant companies feel they have more flexibility in offering rebates to high-volume buyers, suggested Komninos - adding that that could ultimately lead to cheaper priced products for consumers.

The US tech giant, which has its European manufacturing headquarters in Leixlip, Co Kildare, appealed the fine to the General Court in Luxembourg.

Intel also awarded payments to the electronics retail group Media-Saturn in order that the group would sell only those computers containing Intel's x86 CPUs.

The General Court ruled that there was nothing to change, so Intel bumped the appeal to the European Court of Justice. It was superseded by the $2.7 billion antitrust fine the European regulatory body imposed on Google in June.

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