EU court orders re-examination of Intel anti-trust fine

 06 Sep 2017 - 12:44

EU court orders re-examination of Intel anti-trust fine

AFP

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

The decision by the European Court of Justice keeps alive one of the longest running EU competition court cases in history that could have a huge impact in similar cases against Google and chipmaker Qualcomm. 

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, in 2009 slapped a then record fine of 1.06 billion euros ($1.16 billion) on Intel after it said the company had offered clients price rebates to use its own computer chips in preference to rival AMD.

Intel then appealed to the General Court, second only to the European Court of Justice, but lost the case in 2014.

"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," the court said in a statement.

A final decision in favour on Intel would hand a rare defeat to the European Commission that has not lost a major anti-trust case in decades.

Sources close to the case said that the decision was a setback for the commission, which will now be required to provide more thorough arguments in similar cases, including ongoing litigation with Google over its Android mobile phone operating system. 

In an email to AFP, an EU spokesman said the commission "takes note of today's ruling ... and will study the judgement carefully."

Intel hopes were for a clearer victory after a top advisor to the European Court of Justice last year said the lower court had failed to argue adequately that rebates were illegal.

Instead, the Intel case is now likely to drag on for many more years and will fail to bring legal clarity to the closely watched case.

Questions on the legality of rebates to manufacturers is also at the heart of the Google Android case which is expected to be decided by the EU this year.

That case is separate from the Google Shopping case in which the EU inflicted a record fine on the Silicon Valley giant for illegally favouring its shopping service in search results.

Led by competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Brussels has accused Google of breaking anti-trust laws by forcing or enticing mobile phone manufacturers to pre-load Google services on their devices.

"It is a very important judgement and will take some time to go through every detail of what the judges tell us," Vestager said in an interview with AFP ahead of the decision.