Dating back to 2009, the fine was levied against Intel for trying to block competition from rival AMD by offering rebates to computer makers.
Intel has won its appeal against a $1bn antitrust fine levied by the European Commission more than 12 years ago.
The fine was brought against Intel in 2009 for “abuse of a dominant market position”, with the Commission saying the chipmaker had engaged in anti-competitive practices such as providing rebates to computer manufacturers to give itself an unfair advantage over rival AMD.
The General Court based in Luxembourg, the second highest in the EU, overturned the antitrust fine today (26 January) following an appeal by Intel.
“The analysis carried out by the Commission is incomplete and, in any event, does not make it possible to establish to the requisite legal standard that the rebates at issue were capable of having, or were likely to have, anticompetitive effects,” the court said in its judgement.
The European Commission had penalised Intel for potentially blocking rival AMD’s ability to compete in the European chip market when it offered rebates to computer manufacturers such as Dell, Acer, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo between 2002 and 2007.
“Such rebates and payments effectively prevented customers, and ultimately consumers, from choosing alternative products”, the Commission said at the time. “By undermining competitors’ ability to compete on the merits of their products, Intel’s actions undermined competition and innovation.”
This is not the first time the General Court has ruled on the Intel antitrust case. In 2014, the same court upheld the European Commission’s fine – only to be asked to review Intel’s appeal by the EU Court of Justice in 2017.
Antitrust regulators generally view rebates and other incentivising payments with suspicion as they can lead to a stifling of competition and innovation in any sector. However, regulators must find a clear link between rebates and actual harm to competition.
In November, the General Court upheld a €2.42bn antitrust fine given to Google in 2017 by the European Commission following what it found was a breach of competition laws – marking a big win for Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s top commissioner responsible for competition who has been taking on Big Tech.
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