In a significant development, Intel has been fined €376.36 million ($400 million) by the European Commission, marking a pivotal moment in a longstanding antitrust saga. This decision underscores the Commission's commitment to enforcing competition rules and addressing anticompetitive practices in the technology sector.
Re-imposition of Fine for Anticompetitive Practices
The European Commission has re-imposed this substantial fine on Intel following a series of legal proceedings and judgments. The fine specifically pertains to Intel's “naked restrictions” practice, which involved making payments to computer manufacturers to delay or halt the launch of products containing competitors' x86 CPUs. These restrictions had a detrimental effect on market competition by limiting consumer choice. The Commission's decision to re-impose the fine demonstrates its resolve to ensure that such breaches of competition law do not go unsanctioned.
A Decade-Long Legal Battle
This case has its origins in 2009 when the Commission initially fined Intel €1.06 billion for abusing its dominant position in the x86 central processing unit market. The EU found Intel had attempted to block British company AMD, from competing by giving rebates to major computer manufacturers including HP, Lenovo, and Dell. Intel provided these rebates when the companies purchased its chips.
Intel appealed the decision, leading to a series of court rulings and the eventual annulment of part of the 2009 Commission's decision concerning conditional rebates. The company appealed the decision in 2014, but the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) upheld the ruling. However, in 2017 the CJEU changed its mind and the case went back before the General Court.
The General Court also annulled the original fine in its entirety in 2022, leading to the Commission's current decision to re-impose a fine specifically for the naked restrictions practice. This development highlights the complexities and challenges involved in addressing anticompetitive practices in the technology sector.
Implications and Ongoing Proceedings
The re-imposition of the fine on Intel is indicative of the serious nature of the infringement and its significant impact in the European Economic Area. Despite the time elapsed since the original infringement, the Commission remains steadfast in holding Intel accountable for its actions. The case is not yet concluded, as the Commission has appealed the part of the 2022 judgment of the General Court concerning the conditional rebates before the Court of Justice, and the appeal is still pending.