information could come out “clean” from the procedure of unlawful anti-competitive practices and abuse of dominant position in the x86 processor market at the expense of AMD. The story dates back to 2009, when EU Antitrust fined the microchip giant for $1.06 billion.
After about 12 years, and more than a few appeals (we also talked about this last year), Intel has won a victory before the General Court of the European Union (CGE), which criticized the analysis of the European Competition Authority and canceled the fine imposed.
“The (European) Commission’s analysis is incomplete and does not establish to the requisite legal standard that the rebates in question could have anti-competitive effects“, said the judges.
The same court in 2014 upheld the Commission’s 2009 decision, but in 2017 the Court of Justice of the EU, Europe’s highest institution, was asked to consider an appeal filed by Intel, which focused on the merits of the AEC test (as an effective test of the competitor), able to establish the difference between sane or illegal conduct.
The question is so remote in time and complex that it is necessary summarize. Under the 2009 ruling, the US chip giant took advantage of its dominant position in the industry between October 2002 and December 2007 to drive competitor AMD out of the market. Intel used what the EU called “anti-competitive strategies,” applying rebates to four major PC makers (Dell, Lenovo, HP and NEC) conditional on adopting a large portion of its processors. Intel also accepted payments to Media-Saturn (large retailers) on the condition that the latter only sell PCs equipped with Intel processors. Also in 2009, Intel settled its direct litigation with AMD, paying it $1.25 billion.
The Commission said it would study the decision and consider possible next steps. The Court of Justice of the European Union has the right to appeal, so although for the moment the fine has been canceled, things will not change in the future.
The penalty of those hours will make it difficult for the regulator in other cases as well, as Assimakis Komninos, a partner at law firm White & Case, told Reuters. “This is a huge win for Intel because it raises the bar for the Commission in bringing cases concerning alleged dominance. The Commission will have to carry out an impact assessment for each case. This will impact all businesses.”