Intel pleads for €1bn EU fine to be overturned, is denied

Couldn't, er, chip away at 5-year-old penalty either


Remember when Intel gave rebates to PC makers who bought its chips? The world’s largest computer chip maker has now lost its attempt to overturn the ancient €1bn fine from the European Union over its anticompetitive war with rival AMD.

The record €1.06bn fine was handed down by the European Commission’s antitrust division because of Intel’s attempts to block Advanced Micro Devices’ chips from the market. Chipzilla gave out rebates to PC manufacturers like HP and Dell for buying most of their chips from Intel and also paid German retail chain Media Saturn Holding (MSH) only to stock computers with Intel inside, according to the commission.

“The evidence gathered by the Commission led it to the conclusion that Intel’s conditional rebates and payments induced the loyalty of the key OEMs and of MSH,” Europe’s General Court said in its decision.

“The effects of these practices were complementary, in that they significantly diminished competitors’ ability to compete on the merits of their x86 CPUs. Intel’s anti-competitive conduct thereby resulted in a reduction of consumer choice and in lower incentives to innovate.”

Intel was trying to get that decision annulled or, failing that, to reduce the amount of the fine imposed on it by the commission. But the court rejected its arguments against the original ruling and said that Chipzilla had failed to put forward any reason that the fine was too hefty.

"The Commission demonstrated to the requisite legal standard that Intel attempted to conceal the anti-competitive nature of its practices and implemented a long term comprehensive strategy to foreclose AMD from the strategically most important sales channels," the court said.

“Having regard to the unlimited jurisdiction of the Court in relation to fines for infringement of the competition rules, there is nothing in the complaints, arguments or matters of law and of fact put forward by the applicant in connection with all the pleas examined above from which it might be concluded that the fine that was imposed on it by the contested decision is disproportionate.

“On the contrary, it must be held that the fine is appropriate to the circumstances of the case,” it added.

Intel could still push the case to the Court of Justice in Europe, but it will only be able to argue points of law at that stage. ®

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