Intel and the EU have reached the final front in a €1bn decade-long antitrust battle with ECJ ruling this week

 
Lynsey Barber
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The European court will decide on Intel's fine on Wednesday (Source: Getty)

A final judgement is expected this week in a more than decade long battle between a US tech giant and EU regulators.

The European Court of Justice will make a final ruling on the case between Intel and the competition commission in Brussels over a €1bn fine originally handed down in 2009.

The biggest ever antitrust penalty at the time, it was imposed after the European Commission ruled Intel blocked rival Advanced Micro Systems (AMD) from the computer chip market, abusing its dominant market position.

Read more: Google has settled an Android antitrust case with Russia

General court judges dismissed Intel's claim in 2014 but the firm turned to the ECJ, its last option to fight against the fine.

A court advisor, Nils Wahl, said in a recommendation in 2016 that Intel's appeal against the fine should be upheld and that the general court failed to establish that payments made by Intel were anti-competitive or that certain deals harmed consumers.

While Wahl's view is non-binding, ECJ decisions follow such statements in the majority of cases.

A ruling in favour of Intel is likely to give a boost to Google, currently the most high-profile US tech giant in the cross hairs of antitrust authorities in Brussels and fighting multiple actions.

EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager, whose predecessor Neelie Kroes originally probed Intel, slapped Google with a record-breaking €2.4bn fine in June for favouring its own shopping results in search results. It last week submitted details of how it intends to amend its results which it has until the end of September to do.

But the tech company is bracing itself for an even larger fine in relation to its Android operating system which some analysts estimate could surpass $6bn. Vestager last year found it broke competition rules by favouring its own search, something Google has argued it does not do.

Vestager is seen as taking a tough stance against US tech firms but offered some surprise praise for Google this weekend, calling it a "wonderful" company.

"This is a decision about legal behavior that they (Google) should and can correct," she said speaking to CNBC at the Ambrosetti Forum, adding that she thinks it does not have a bad attitude towards competition.

Read more: Google submits documents to comply with EU antitrust order

"In other respects, Google is a wonderful company – very, very innovative – and they have brought us innovation that has changed our lives."

A third investigation is taking place into Google's Adsense search advertising product. Meanwhile, chip maker Qualcomm is also embroiled in two separate probes with Brussels and Facebook was fined €110m over its acquisition of WhatsApp earlier this year.

And Apple was ordered to pay a €13bn tax bill to Ireland after it was ruled that a so-called sweetheart deal the two forged, agreeing the amount it should pay, amounted to state aid. Both Apple and Ireland are appealing.

The ECJ ruling on Intel's case is scheduled for Wednesday 6 September.

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