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

Intel scores victory in fight against €1.06bn AMD antitrust fine

The highest court in the European Union has ordered a €1.06 billion ($1.4 billion) antitrust fine against Intel be re-examined, heralding a victory for other technology companies now facing similar investigations from Europe.

"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 European Court of Justice set aside an earlier judgment by a lower court which had dismissed Intel's appeal against the fine.

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.

The court did reject Intel's arguments that the Commission had mishandled interview procedure and mischaracterised its exclusivity rebates with HP and Lenovo, but did not rule on other parts of the appeal.

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Led by competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Brussels has accused Google of breaking anti-trust laws by forcing or enticing mobile phone manufacturers to pre-load Google services on their devices.

In its ruling today, the European Court of Justice found that the General Court had missed a few things, including addressing Intel's criticisms of the test. It will also have a huge impact on similar cases against Google, Apple and chipmaker Qualcomm.

Regulators have generally frowned upon rebates, especially those offered by dominant companies, on the theory they are anti-competitive in nature. "The case should be referred back to the General Court for a fresh review".

Intel then appealed that decision to the highest court, the European Court of Justice. The EU also said Intel made payments to electronics retailer Media Saturn Holding on the condition that it only sold computers containing Intel's microprocessors.

That case is separate from the Google Shopping case in which the European Union inflicted a record fine on the Silicon Valley giant for illegally favouring its shopping service in search results.

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