Intel has won an appeal against a €1.06bn (£886m) EU antitrust fine that was handed to the company 12 years ago in a momentous win for tech firms.
The European Commission fined the US chipmaker back in 2009 for trying to block rival Advanced Micro Devices by giving rebates to computer makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Lenovo for buying most of their chips from Intel.
Rebates are generally frowned upon by regulators, especially when they are offered by dominant firms. However, the defence is that regulators must be able to prove that rebates have anti-competitive effects before sanctioning them.
Over a decade later, the Luxembourg-based General Court, Europe’s second-highest court, annulled the original fine and criticised the EU competition enforcer’s analysis.
“The (European) Commission’s analysis is incomplete and does not make it possible to establish to the requisite legal standard that the rebates at issue were capable of having, or likely to have, anticompetitive effects,” judges said.
The Commission has come out and said it would study the judgment and reflect on the next steps, but the move is nevertheless music to the ears of Google and Facebook who have also had to fend off the European courts for trust related issues.
Assimakis Komninos, a partner at law firm White & Case, said: “This is a huge victory for Intel. It sets the bar higher for the Commission in bringing dominance cases. It will have to do an effects-based analysis for each case. This will have an impact on all companies,” he said.
An Intel spokesperson has said in a statement that the company is currently reviewing the decision. “We will provide further comment when we have completed our initial review,” they said.
The company is due to announce its fourth quarter results this evening after market close in the US.