Intel was hit with a record fine in an E.U. antitrust case stemming from the U.S. chipmaker’s actions to crush rival AMD. The fine topped the record 899 million euros Microsoft was ordered to pay last year for failing to cooperate with E.U. antitrust authorities in their battles.
The European Commission said the fine was based on an “as severe as possible” infringement of E.U. antitrust rules. It added that the action aimed to end “this infringement and restore competition on the market for x86 microprocessors.”
The European Commission accused Intel of abusing its dominant position in the x86 chip market by imposing unfair restrictions on computer manufacturers and retailers. It said Intel gave hidden rebates to computer makers only if they obtained all or most of their x86 chips from the company and made payments to encourage them to delay or cancel the launch of PCs containing AMD chips. The Commission said these restrictions and payments harmed competitors and consumers throughout the E.U.
The original record fine of 1.06 billion euros was thrown out last year by the Luxembourg-based General Court, Europe’s second highest. However, the court agreed with the European Commission that the chipmaker illegally excluded rivals from the market, which prompted the E.U. antitrust watchdog to re-open the case.
On Friday, the Commission issued its new decision. The Commission says it upholds the earlier decision, with some adjustments based on the court’s findings. It also upheld the earlier finding that Intel had abused its dominance by illegally forcing computer makers to buy almost all their chips from Intel, making it hard for them to sell computers using AMD processors.
The Commission said the latest fine was based on an “as serious as possible infringement of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.” It added that the fine was aimed at ending this infringement and restoring competition in the market. The Commission said it would actively monitor Intel’s compliance with the decision.
Intel denied the allegations in a statement and said it would fight to clear its name in Europe. The company said it was “unreasonable” to impose a fine as hefty as the one that was initially imposed.
Seasoned tech observers have long been waiting for the court to review this landmark case. The Association for Competitive Technology supports Intel, while French consumer body UFC is backing the Commission. A judgment is expected next year, and the losing party can appeal to the European Court of Justice (CJEU). The CJEU has a broad scope for interpreting E.U. law. It has a reputation for delivering tough decisions, even in complex cases. Its judges are known for taking a tougher line on companies that abuse their dominant positions than other national courts in the E.U. This case is also being closely watched in the U.S., where the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Intel’s actions.