Chips back on the table as Intel granted review of EU €1bn antitrust fine

7 Sep 2017

Image: Lisa S/Shutterstock

All tech eyes are on this case, as Intel review opens avenue for potential appeal against antitrust fines.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has opened the door for Intel’s appeal against a €1bn antitrust fine to be re-examined.

The move is a boost to the chip giant’s eight-year-long efforts to overturn the fine for alleged anticompetitive behaviour.

In 2009, Intel was slammed with a €1bn ($1.26bn) fine for allegedly urging computer makers to use its chips over rival AMD processors through exclusivity incentives.

An appeal by Intel was rejected in 2014, but the company is showing no signs of giving up.

Intel continues to chip away at a ruling it believes was unjust

The ECJ yesterday (6 September) ruled that Intel’s appeal should now be re-examined because the lower-court judges had failed to properly analyse the economic aspects of the case and examine “whether the rebates at issue were capable of restricting competition”.

Rebates are a common practice in an industry dominated by high fixed costs. The ultimate issue that the lower court must prove is whether Intel’s rebates harmed rivals such as AMD or not.

Intel is unusual in its doggedness to appeal the fine, as most appeals against EU antitrust decisions tend to fail. As such, tech companies that have felt the wrath of regulators will be studying the case closely.

Qualcomm, for example, is currently being probed by the EU as to whether it unfairly paid Apple to only use Qualcomm chipsets in iPhone and iPad products since 2011.

Google, too, is under investigation for allegedly inducing phone makers to use its Android software, as well as a ban on AdSense customers using rival ad services.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years