ECJ keeps Intel's €1.06bn appeal alive

08 September, 2017, 00:45 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Intel was fined in 2009 for abusing its monopoly position
Credit
AFP

By sending the case back to the EU General Court, the Court of Justice effectively sent a message to the Commission that it will have to look more closely at effects-based arguments, thereby raising the burden of proof on investigators and shifting it away from the company in question.

The Commission handed down the fine in 2009, a record at the time, saying Intel had tried to block rival Advanced Micro Devices by giving rebates to computer makers Dell [DI.UL], Hewlett-Packard Co, NEC 6701.T and Lenovo 0992.HK for buying most of their chips from Intel.

The lower tribunal - the EU General Court - has to examine "whether the rebates at issue were capable of restricting competition".

The Commission said Intel had given rebates to four major computer manufacturers - Dell, Lenovo, HP and NEC - on the condition that they purchased from Intel all, or nearly all, of their x86 CPUs.

But the General Court failed to take those allegations into account when it rejected Intel's appeal in 2014.

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Nevertheless it will be a big encouragement to other large United States tech companies that have fallen foul of the EU's Competition Authority, Qualcomm is being investigated over payments made to Apple over the use of its chips in iPhones and iPads and Google is also being investigated over its contract terms with phonemakers and networks using its Android software.

The EU court has brought the European Commission one step closer to its first bloody nose on anti-trust fines.

The lower court will need to examine whether rebates used by the company could have restricted competition - likely meaning there are years more left in a legal saga that has already clocked up more than eight years of appeals. This tossing back to a lower court of the case has completely reversed the momentum previously created, throwing the outcome of the case back into uncertainty. 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. Intel had also paid a major electronics retail group, Germany's Media Saturn Holding, to only stock PCs with Intel inside.

On Wednesday, Intel got what it wanted: The CJEU ordered the General Court to reexamine Intel's arguments concerning its capacity to restrict competition.

It raised six grounds of appeal, three of which were considered by the CJEU in its ruling.

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