Top European court's ruling might embolden USA tech companies to challenge regulators

Posted September 07, 2017

Intel has claimed a victory in its decade-long dispute with competition authorities in Brussels.

On Wednesday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) made a decision to set aside the judgment of the General Court "as a result of that failure in its analysis of whether the rebates at issue were capable of restricting competition".

The EU's top court on Wednesday ordered a lower court to reconsider its rejection of an appeal by United States chip giant Intel against one of the EU's biggest-ever fines for breaking competition rules.

The commission said Intel foreclosed one of its competitors, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., from the market by granting rebates to four major computer manufacturers on the condition that they purchased all, or nearly all, of their x86 CPUs from Intel.

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The EU court has brought the European Commission one step closer to its first bloody nose on anti-trust fines.

"It forces the Commission to be as economic in its approach in other cases as it did in Intel".

"The Court therefore sets aside the judgment of the General Court as a result of that failure in its analysis of whether the rebates at issue were capable of restricting competition", the ECJ said.

The CJEU's decision to ask the General Court to look again at the case is in line with the advice given to it in a non-binding opinion issued by an advocate general to the court in October past year, and is the latest stage in a long history of the case.

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The tech company then brought an appeal against the General Court's judgment before the Court of Justice.

Today's ECJ ruling could mean dominant companies feel they have more flexibility in offering rebates to high-volume buyers, suggested Komninos - adding that that could ultimately lead to cheaper priced products for consumers.

For that infringement of European Union competition rules, the Commission fined Intel €1.06 billion and ordered it to end the infringement.

The General Court ruled that there was nothing to change, so Intel bumped the appeal to the European Court of Justice.

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Google, which was hit with a 2.42 billion euro fine in June for favouring its own shopping service, is also under fire over its Android smartphone operating system and online search advertising.