The EU General Court today annulled a 2009 antitrust decision against Intel, reversing its record €1 billion fine in the process.
“By decision of 13 May 2009, the European Commission imposed on the microprocessor manufacturer Intel a fine of €1.06 billion for having abused its dominant position on the worldwide market for x86 processors between October 2002 and December 2007, by implementing a strategy intended to exclude competitors from the market,” the court’s decision reads, explaining the original case. “The action brought by Intel against that decision was dismissed in its entirety by the General Court by judgment of 12 June 2014. By judgment of 6 September 2017, on the appeal brought by Intel, the Court of Justice set aside that judgment and referred the case back to the General Court.”
And with that little bit of history out of the way, the General Court explains its role in this decade-old drama: in light of ongoing arguments made by Intel that the European Commission (EC), the EU Court of Justice, and the EU General Court all ignored evidence in the case, the latter court has now ruled in Intel’s favor. That is, the rebates that Intel offered starting 20 years ago are no longer deemed “abusive” and capable of “foreclosure effects” to AMD, its primary competitor, then and now, in the market for x86 compatible microprocessors.
“The analysis carried out by the [European] Commission is incomplete and, in any event, does not make it possible to establish to the requisite legal standard that the rebates at issue were capable of having, or were likely to have, anticompetitive effects, which is why the General Court annuls the decision,” the announcement concludes. “It [also] annuls in its entirety the article of the contested decision which imposes on Intel a fine of €1.06 billion in respect of the infringement found.”
The EC can still appeal this decision, of course, meaning that perhaps this 20-year-old case could go on for another decade if we’re lucky.