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EU Court Chucks $1.2B Antitrust Fine Against Intel

EU Court Chucks $1.2B Antitrust Fine Against Intel

The EU's top court on Wednesday ordered a lower court to reconsider an appeal by USA tech giant Intel against a €1.06 billion ($1.27 billion) fine imposed by the European Commission for anti-competitive behavior.

The European Commission imposed the fine in 2009, finding that the US - based microchip manufacturer abused its dominant position for the x86 CPU. This conclusion was supported by the General Court in a ruling in 2014 in which it dismissed Intel's appeal against the €1.06bn fine the Commission had imposed.

It said that the General Court had accepted the Commission's argument that the rebates were by their very nature capable of restricting competition - and had erred in not letting Intel challenge the evidence that led the Commission to make that assertion. The General Court had decided that it wasn't necessary to check if it was error-free and followed the rules, or check if Intel had done its own alternative calculations correctly.

On Wednesday, the CJEU said the General Court had failed to properly examine the issue of whether the rebates did actually stifle competition.

"The commission takes note of today's ruling by the European Court of Justice and will study the judgment carefully", the commission said. Intel had also engaged in efforts to try to hide its infringing activities, the Commission found.

Intel appealed the decision to the EU's general court.

If the legal process ends up exonerating Intel it would mark the first major defeat for the Commission on anti-trust fines.

It could also give dominant companies more freedom over how they offer rebates and discounts.

"It forces the Commission to be as economic in its approach in other cases as it did in Intel".

"Companies will be more confident when they go to the Commission and more corporations will have the appetite to take the Commission to court on effects-based arguments", he said.

The General Court in its 2014 ruling upheld the European Commission's 2009 decision but previous year a court adviser recommended backing Intel's arguments.

The European Commission fined Intel €1.1 billion in 2009.

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