Intel was given a boost yesterday when Europe’s top court sent the EU’s antitrust regulators case against the US chipmaker back to court for an appeal. In a rare blow for the regulators, the ramifications could set a president for similar cases against Qualcomm and Google.
The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) said that the court which upheld a €1 billion fine against Intel must re-examine the company’s appeal. “The case is referred back to the General Court in order for it to examine the arguments put forward by Intel concerning the capacity of the rebates at issue to restrict competition,” the ECJ said in a statement.
The Commission handed down the fine in 2009, a record at the time, saying Intel had tried 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. A spokesperson for Intel said: “We have always believed that our actions were lawful and did not harm competition.”
The ruling raises the bar for regulators when it comes to proving wrongdoing, said Rein Wesseling, a partner at law firm Stibbe.“It forces the Commission to be as economic in its approach in other cases as it did in Intel. This is encouraging for Qualcomm and Google,” he said.
Qualcomm faces similar charges of using anticompetitive methods by making illegal payments to squeeze out British software maker Icera. Meanwhile, Google is being investigated over its Android smartphone operating system and online search advertising.