US microchip maker Intel has been told it will have to pay a record 1.06 billion euro fine handed down five years ago by competition regulators.
Europe’s second highest court has ruled it was appropriate in view of the facts of the case.
Judges at the Luxembourg-based General Court rejected Intel’s argument that the penalty was disproportionate.
In 2009 the European Commission said Intel had tried to hit the sales of its rival Advanced Micro Devices by giving rebates to personal computer makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Lenovo if they bought most of their computer chips from Intel.
The European Commission welcomed the ruling, as did consumers’ lobbying group BEUC.
“When large companies abuse their dominance of the market, it causes direct harm to consumers. The court’s ruling issued a strong reminder that such behaviour is illegal and unacceptable,” said BEUC director-general Monique Goyens.
‘Better not to fight’
The court’s judgement suggests companies would be better off settling antitrust charges instead of fighting them, said Martina Maier, a partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery.
“Companies under investigation by the Commission should not count on winning in court with the argument that the Commission would not have properly assessed the economic effects of an abuse of dominance,” she said.
“This might well lead to a supplementary incentive for a company under investigation for an alleged abuse of dominance to settle with the Commission or to offer commitments in order to motivate the Commission to end its investigation.”
Intel, which can take its case further to the Court of Justice of the European Union but only on points of law, declined to say whether it would do so.
“We are very disappointed about the decision. It’s a complex case which is reflected in the decision. We will begin evaluating the decision,” Intel spokeswoman Sophie Jacobs said.