Intel must not pay the fine of 1.06 billion euros for distortion of competition. After twelve years, the European Court rules insufficient evidence that the practices harm competitors.
Intel was found guilty in 2009 by the European competition watchdog for discounting Dell, HP and Lenovo if they bought the majority of their chips from Intel. That is an abuse of their dominant position and disadvantages smaller competitors such as AMD, the regulator said at the time.
Intel challenged that decision, but it was retained in 2014 by the European Court, the EU’s second-highest judicial body. However, the European Court of Justice, the highest European court, said in 2016 that an appeal should be considered.
Now that same European Court concludes that the analysis that led to the conviction is incomplete. The facts are insufficient to establish legally that Intel’s rebates pose a competition rule problem. In other words: the facts remain unchanged, but it has not been proven that they are serious enough to be convicted.
Reuters notes that the decision is hopeful for other tech companies such as Apple, Amazon and Facebook, which are also currently under fire in Europe for abuse of power. However, the case against Intel has not yet been finally settled.
The European Commission can also appeal against this decision to the European Court of Justice. But the sword of Damocles, worth one billion euros, is not hanging over Intel’s head for the time being.