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In a defeat for the European Union’s tech antitrust efforts, a top court on Wednesday threw out a $1.2 billion fine issued against Intel more than a decade ago over practices to undercut a rival in the semiconductor industry.
The court said the European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s main antitrust regulator, made key mistakes about the competitive impact of Intel’s behavior when determining the chip maker had violated antitrust laws in 2009. Intel had been charged with paying illegal rebates to companies that used its semiconductors over rival Advanced Micro Devices.
The decision by the E.U. General Court in Luxembourg can be appealed, though the commission said it needed time to review the judgment.
The ruling shows how efforts by European regulators to crack down on the world’s largest tech companies can be undercut by the courts. In 2020, Apple won an appeal of an order to repay 13 billion euros in taxes to Ireland, worth about $14.7 billion today. A higher court will hear another appeal of that case.
The courts will also decide the fate of more than $9 billion in fines against Google related to unfair business practices in the company’s shopping, mobile phone and advertising businesses. Antitrust investigations are also underway against Amazon, Apple and Meta, the new company name for Facebook. And the European Union is drafting new antitrust laws that would expand the commission’s power to go after the tech giants.