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Intel wins ECJ appeal against EU €1.06bn anti-trust fine levied in 2009

Intel has won its appeal at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against the landmark €1.06bn fine levied in 2009 over anti-competitive practices in the CPU market. The ECJ has demanded that the case be re-examined by the lower court.

The European Commission slapped Intel with the fine in 2009 after ruling that the company had abused its dominance in the microprocessor market by offering rebates to PC makers that used its chips instead of those made by competitors.

Intel offered rebates to Dell, HP and Lenovo, along with German retail chain Media Saturn Holding, among others, in order to squeeze rival AMD out of the market, according to the Commission’s ruling.

“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.

Intel has fought a long battle against the ruling, though, arguing that EU judges failed to analyse “all relevant circumstances” to see whether the rebates shut out rivals, including AMD. The company also received a boost last year after a top European judge said that the case should be reviewed.

The judge, Nils Wahl, questioned whether there was substantial evidence that the company’s actions actually harmed competition, saying: “Intel’s appeal against the imposition of a €1.06bn fine for abuse of its dominant position should be upheld. The case should be referred back to the General Court for a fresh review.”

This fight has paid off for the company. Although the European General Court upheld the fine in 2014, the ECJ ruled on Wednesday that the case be sent back to the lower General Court so it can examine more arguments from Intel.

“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 said in its ruling. 

This isn’t just good news for Intel, as the ECJ’s ruling could force the Commission to re-examine its tough line approach in other antitrust cases, such as those against Qualcomm and Google.  

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