EU fines Intel €376M in connection with 2007 antitrust case

EU fines Intel €376M in connection with 2007 antitrust case

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The European Union has fined Intel Corp. €376.36 million in connection with an antitrust case that traces its roots to 2007.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, announced the decision today. The antitrust case that led to the fine relates to Intel’s business practices in the personal computer processor market.

In 2007, EU officials launched an antitrust investigation into Intel’s partnerships with Hewlett Packard Co., Acer Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd. The three hardware makers use Intel central processing units to power many of their PCs. The CPUs in question are based on an instruction set architecture called x86 that is also supported by a number of competing chipmakers, most notably Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

EU officials determined that Intel had paid HP, Acer and Lenovo to scrap or delay the launch of PCs powered by x86 processors from competitors. Furthermore, the chip giant reportedly asked the three companies to “limit the sales channels” available to rival CPU suppliers. The arrangement was reportedly in effect between November 2002 and December 2006.

The EU’s original antitrust complaint also included a second element. Antitrust officials charged that Intel had given PC makers partly or fully hidden rebates on their x86 processor purchases. In exchange, the companies involved allegedly agreed to buy “all, or almost all” the x86 processors they required from Intel.

The EU fined Intel over the matter in 2009 and the chipmaker filed an appeal shortly thereafter. The General Court, the bloc’s second highest court, partly upheld the appeal in 2022. The judges dismissed the part of the EU’s decision that found Intel issued rebates to PC makers in breach of antitrust law.

The EU had originally fined Intel €1.06 billion over its business practices in the PC market. Last year, the General Court ordered antitrust officials to revise the fine in order to account for the dismissal of the findings about Intel’s rebate policy. The €376 million penalty the EU issued today is a reflection of the case’s reduced scope.

The European Commission is currently appealing the General Court’s judgment about Intel’s rebate practices. Officials have filed the appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU’s highest court. If the appeal is accepted, the fine that Intel is required to pay could potentially increase.

Fellow chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. has also faced antitrust scrutiny in the EU. The company was fined €242 million and €997 million for its business practices in the 3G baseband chip and LTE modem markets, respectively. The General Court dismissed the latter penalty last year and Qualcomm is currently appealing the second €242 million fine at the same court. 

Photo: Intel

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