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Intel re-fined for ancient anti-trust antics

by on25 September 2023

It should really have kept its jaws shut

The European Commission has re-imposed a fine of $400 million on chipmaker Intel for abusing its dominant position in the x86 processor market. 

According to the Commission, the fine is in response to previously established anticompetitive practices by the silicon giant aimed at excluding competitors from the market in breach of EU competition rules.

The original fine handed to Intel in 2009 was for $1.2 billion, based on findings that the company had incentivised PC makers to use its CPUs instead of those from rivals or delay the launch of specific products containing rival chips.

These incentives consisted of wholly or partially hidden rebates for using Intel chips, or payments in order to delay launching products with rival chips, amounting to so-called "naked restrictions."

Rival CPU maker AMD complained in 2000 and again in 2003 that Intel was engaging in anticompetitive conduct by offering rebates to vendors to favour Intel components.

 Intel fought the decision, but an appeal by the Silicon Valley outfit to have it overturned was initially denied in 2014.

In 2022, the EU General Court partially annulled the 2009 ruling by the Commission, in particular the findings related to Intel's conditional rebates, and went on to nix the fine imposed on the company in its entirety.

However, Chipzilla was dumb enough to push its luck and demanded that the EU compensate for all the trouble it caused.

That backfired when the General Court confirmed that Intel's "naked restrictions" amounted to an abuse of its dominant market position under EU competition rules. This allowed the Commission to reopen its administrative procedures to set a new fine against Intel based on those findings.

The financial penalty on Intel applies only to those "naked restrictions" which took place between November 2002 and December 2006 and comprised payments from Intel to three computer manufacturers (HP, Acer and Lenovo) to halt or delay the launch of products containing rival x86 processors, and to limit the sales channels available to these products.

Last modified on 25 September 2023
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