In 2009, the EU Commission imposed a record fine on Intel for distorting competition. This fine of more than one billion euros has now been declared void because the EU Commission has not sufficiently explained how the discounts granted could distort competition.
You don’t see that every day either: the record fine imposed on Intel by the EU Commission in 2009 was declared null and void ( T-286/09 ). In its judgment, the EUG explained that the decision – to put it simply – was made primarily on the basis of formal errors. But the story has, as the periods of time already suggest, a little more depth.
Brief review: In 2009, the EU Commission imposed a fine of 1.06 billion euros on Intel. At the time, such sums were unusually high and Intel refused to pay. Intel was accused of unfair competition in the form of agreements with partners to gain an advantage over AMD products. The partners were mainly OEM customers such as Dell, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, and NEC. Between 2002 and 2007, the system of discounts could also have been a deeper swamp, in which today’s Media-Saturn-Holding is also mentioned. Ultimately, an attempt is said to have been made to gradually push AMD out of the OEM business.
Intel appealed the verdict, as one would expect with a record fine. 2014 at the EUG without success, about three years later in the next instance things looked better. In 2017, the ECJ decided that the case had to be reopened by the EU Commission because the grounds for rejecting the appeal were too simple. The case went back to the EUG, which resumed work – with the result in 2022 that the EU Commission, which had issued the record fine, suffered a defeat.
The EUG finds that the EU Commission also made things easy for itself by not providing sufficient justification and explanation as to how the discounts granted by Intel could unfold their potentially anti-competitive effects; here against the only competitor AMD. “The examination carried out by the Commission is therefore incomplete.” The article of the EU Commission in which the penalty was imposed is consequently void. But just because the fine is no longer due does not mean that Intel is innocent, which would take us back to the beginning. The discounts did exist and are still controversial, but the EU Commission was obviously not able to adequately explain how they distorted competition on which the penalty was based.
The parties now have the right to appeal against the judgment. The money that could potentially be saved will allow Intel to pay the $2.18 billion fine imposed on ARM for patent infringement. Here, too, appeals are pending and one expects to go through the courts.