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Brussels, 12 June 2014
Antitrust: Commission welcomes General Court judgment upholding its decision against Intel
The European Commission welcomes today's judgment by the General Court (case T-286/09) which fully upholds the Commission's 2009 Decision which found that Intel had abused its dominant position and which imposed on Intel a fine of €1.06 billion (see IP/09/745). The judgment is significant because it confirms that the Commission was fully justified in pursuing the anticompetitive conduct in question in a major worldwide market. The Commission will continue to vigorously pursue abuses of dominant market positions, which restrict competition in the Single Market to the detriment of consumers.
On 13 May 2009, the Commission adopted a decision prohibiting Intel's anticompetitive conduct under Article 7 of the EU's Antitrust Regulation (Regulation 1/2003). The decision concluded that Intel had, in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (ex Article 82 of the EC Treaty), engaged in two types of abuse of its dominant position in the x86 CPU market – i.e. essentially, the market for computer chips. These were:
(1) granting rebates to 4 PC and server manufacturers (Dell, HP, NEC, Lenovo) conditional on them obtaining all or almost all of their supplies from Intel, and payments to one downstream computer retailer (Media Markt) conditional on it only selling PCs with Intel CPUs ("conditional rebates"); and
(2) granting direct payments to 3 computer manufacturers (HP, Acer and Lenovo) to halt, delay or limit the launch of specific products incorporating chips from Intel’s only rival, AMD (so-called “naked restrictions”).
In its decision, the Commission found that the conditions and payments relating to these abuses were not generally written in any contracts and that Intel had tried to conceal them. The Commission found that Intel's conduct had undermined competition and innovation. The decision ordered Intel to put an end to this behaviour, to the extent that it was ongoing, and imposed a fine of 1.06 billion Euros. Intel appealed the decision to the General Court.
The General Court has today fully confirmed the Commission's findings. In particular, it found that:
(1) The Commission had correctly demonstrated the existence of Intel's conditional rebates and naked restrictions;
(2) The Commission had correctly demonstrated that Intel had attempted to conceal the anti-competitive nature of its practices;
(3) The Commission had correctly demonstrated that the practices in question were an abuse of Intel's dominant position; and
(4) The fine imposed by the Commission was appropriate.