Intel, the prominent US chipmaker, received a significant boost in its ongoing fight against a 1.06 billion euro ($1.2 billion) antitrust fine imposed by the European Union (EU). On Thursday, an adviser to Europe’s top court criticized the economic analysis conducted by EU regulators, providing fresh momentum to Intel’s appeal.
The antitrust case stems from actions dating back to 2009 when the European Commission penalized Intel for allegedly obstructing rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
The Commission asserted that Intel had offered rebates to major computer manufacturers, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co, NEC, and Lenovo, in an effort to undermine AMD. Regulators typically view such rebates from dominant companies with suspicion, fearing they may have anti-competitive consequences. However, companies argue that enforcers must demonstrate the anti-competitive effects of discounts before imposing sanctions, reported Reuters.
In 2022, a lower tribunal overturned the fine, prompting the EU competition enforcer to appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg.
CJEU Advocate General Laila Medina, focusing on two of the six grounds of appeal, stated in a non-binding opinion that the judges should dismiss both of those grounds. She emphasized that “the court should confirm that the Commission erred in applying the AEC test with respect to HP and Lenovo.” The AEC test (As Efficient Competitor) evaluates the extent to which equally efficient competitors can still compete despite rebates offered by a dominant company.
While the CJEU will make the final ruling in the coming months, it typically follows the majority of recommendations from Advocate Generals.
The EU Commission reopened the case last year, imposing a 376-million-euro fine on Intel. This penalty was attributed to alleged illegal payments made by Intel between November 2002 and December 2006 to HP, Acer, and Lenovo with the intention of halting or delaying the release of rival products.