ECJ keeps Intel's €1.06bn appeal alive

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The highest court in the European Union has ordered a €1.06 billion ($1.4 billion) antitrust fine against Intel be re-examined, heralding a victory for other technology companies now facing similar investigations from Europe.

In 2014 the EU's General Court had upheld the earlier antitrust decision - but, according to Bloomberg, the ECJ said the judges failed to properly analyze the economic aspects of the case.

In 2009, the European Union fined Intel €1.06bn (£971mn) saying the chip maker used illegal sales tactics to shut out smaller rival AMD.

The commission said Intel foreclosed one of its competitors, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., from the market by granting rebates to four major computer manufacturers on the condition that they purchased all, or nearly all, of their x86 CPUs from Intel. The original ruling was not knocked down, but sending the case to lower court was a good decision so that businesses can offer rebates to customers in exchange for exclusivity deals.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has now ruled that the case should be sent back to a lower court to be re-examined.

As Intel had submitted to the Commission that its conduct was not capable of restricting competition by producing the alleged foreclosure effects, the CJEU said the Commission was required to analyse, for example, the share of the market covered by the challenged practice, the conditions for granting the rebates, their duration and their amount.

The commission is also investigating whether or not Qualcomm unfairly paid Apple to use its chips for the Cupertino, Calif. -based company's iPhones.

After the ruling, Intel had tried to annul the decision or reduce the fine in General Court.

Today's ECJ ruling could mean dominant companies feel they have more flexibility in offering rebates to high-volume buyers, suggested Komninos - adding that that could ultimately lead to cheaper priced products for consumers. The EU is also probing Alphabet Inc.'s Google over concerns it abuses its dominance with its Android operating service by strong-arming phone makers and telecom companies into favoring Google's search engine and browser on their devices.

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 commission takes note of today's ruling by the European Court of Justice and will study the judgment carefully", the commission said.

The initial penalty, which represented around 4.15 percent of Intel's 2008 revenues, was record-breaking at the time, but has recently been overtaken by a €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) penalty against Google in June.