Europe's Top Court Backs Intel's Appeal of Antitrust Fine

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A reversal Wednesday from Europe's highest court upended a $1.2 billion fine against Intel for cornering the market on a certain central processing unit.

It referred the case back to the General Court, ordering it to examine Intel's arguments about whether the rebates were capable of restricting competition in the way that the Commission claimed.

The EU's top court on Wednesday ordered a lower court to reconsider its rejection of an appeal by USA chip giant Intel against one of the EU's biggest-ever fines for breaking competition rules.

The decision could embolden companies challenging the European Commission, the bloc's antitrust authority, in court over competition decisions-cases the regulator typically wins.

In 2009, the European Union fined Intel 1.06 billion euros saying the chip maker used illegal sales tactics to shut out smaller rival AMD.

The antitrust authority found that Intel had used the rebates, coupled with its dominant position, to lock rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. out of the market, reducing choice for consumers.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has now ruled that the case should be sent back to a lower court to be re-examined.




"By undermining its competitors' ability to compete on the merits of their products, Intel's actions undermined competition and innovation", the Commission said at the time.

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.

The CJEU's decision to ask the General Court to look again at the case is in line with the advice given to it in a non-binding opinion issued by an advocate general to the court in October previous year, and is the latest stage in a long history of the case. "The case should be referred back to the General Court for a fresh review".

Regulators have generally frowned upon rebates, especially those offered by dominant companies, on the theory they are anti-competitive in nature.

The General Court ruled that there was nothing to change, so Intel bumped the appeal to the European Court of Justice.

In June the Commission hit Google with a €2.4bn fine over its online shopping services.

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