by Foo Yunchee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union General Court on Wednesday annulled a 1.06 billion euro fine imposed by the European Commission on U.S. chip giant Intel in 2009 for abusing its dominant position in the global processor market, represents a setback for the European competition authorities.
The community bloc had sanctioned the group for trying to block rival Advanced Micro Devices by giving discounts to computer manufacturers Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co, NEC and Lenovo, on the condition that they buy almost all of their x86 processors from Intel. .
The Luxembourg-based Court, the second highest court in Europe, criticized the analysis carried out by the European competition authority and annulled the fine.
“The analysis carried out by the Commission is incomplete and does not establish with the required legal standard that the discounts in question could or could have anti-competitive effects,” the judges said.
Thus, the court annuls in its entirety the article of the contested decision imposing a fine of €1.06 billion on Intel for the infringement found.
The same court had upheld the Commission’s 2009 decision in 2014, but the EU Court of Justice, the highest European court, overturned this ruling in 2017 and sent the case back to the General Court.
Rebates, especially those offered by dominant companies, are generally frowned upon by competition authorities as they can have anti-competitive effects.
The companies say, however, that regulators must show that price cuts have such an effect before sanctioning them.
The decision, which should encourage Alphabet subsidiary Google to fight three hefty antitrust fines from the EU, can still be appealed to the Court of Justice.
(Foo Yun Chee Report, French version Diana Mandiá)
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