back to article Twelve years after Intel was fined $1.2bn for unfairly running over rivals, an EU court says: No need to pay

Intel Corporation no longer has to pay a €1.06bn ($1.2bn, £890m) fine imposed by the European Commission (EC) in 2009 for abusing its dominance of the chip market. On Wednesday, the General Court of the European Union annulled the EC antitrust penalty [PDF] after previously upholding it in 2014 [PDF].  After rival AMD …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    Brown Envelopes?

    Europe wants more chip manufacturing in Europe.

    Europe throws out case against chip manufacturing company.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Brown Envelopes?

      Brown envelopes?

      Seems about right.

      Now wait for the tax breaks and other similar stimuli.

      If and when any Intel fab is set up in the EU, the tax-payers will have paid for it twice over.

      That's modern capitalism for you.

      O.

      1. deive

        Re: Brown Envelopes?

        Socilism for corps.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Brown Envelopes?

          Yep, corps are capitalism for profits, socialist for bailouts.

      2. FILE_ID.DIZ

        Re: Brown Envelopes?

        I'm not sure if you're questioning if Intel has a chip fab in the EU or if you're stating that every fab in the EU is twice-paid for by tax-payers?

        Intel does have two chip fabs in the EU, in Ireland [0].

        [0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_manufacturing_sites

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Brown Envelopes?

      There was an article on here not that long ago about Intel getting a bung from the EU to setup a new factory.

      So a double bung then,

  2. Potemkine! Silver badge

    I don't understand how the same court can say two opposite things. I also don't understand why it took 13 years to get this result, supposing the EC won't appeal.

    1. emfiliane

      The ECOJ, the EU's Supreme Court, told the lower court that the standards it applied were incorrect and it should reinterpret the case in the light of different ones. This is exactly how most appeals work in the US and UK, very few are directly ruled on, most that aren't fully affirmed are sent back for a corrected ruling.

      I went crosseyed trying to read the long ruling the first time, but the general conclusion was that it looked good for Intel back then, so this is only surprising that it took so long.

      1. HildyJ Silver badge
        Holmes

        Reality intervened?

        "...the analysis carried out by the Commission is incomplete and, in any event, does not make it possible to establish to the requisite legal standard that the rebates at issue were capable of having, or were likely to have, anti-competitive effects…"

        As those who follow Intel know, none of their actions have slowed AMD. Their empire crumbled even with the rebates. Whether the lower court could have recognized then what the higher court recognized now, I can't say. But the market has spoken clearly.

    2. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      ... don't understand how the same court can say two opposite things.

      Well ...

      You first have to understand that money talks and (most) politicians listen.

      Fortunately, there are still some deaf ones around, but it is just a minority.

      Not to mention that those who listen have very acute hearing, especially sensitive to the voice of money's fundamental frequency.

      ie: ~ 70 to 350 Hz.

      Basically, it is just a question of talking loud and long enough.

      O.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You first have to understand that money talks and (most) politicians listen."

        That was always one of my primary objections to the EU.

        Each member state already has its own set of corruptible officials, it's simple human nature, so why bother creating an additional layer at the supranational level that's even less accountable to the citizenry?

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Regarding "don't understand how the same court can say two opposite things", the composition of a court changes over time, so at least some of the judges ruling will be different. Plus, they have been told by a superior court that their original ruling wasn't up to scratch - that doesn't necessarily guarantee they will change their ruling, but if they stick to their guns they have to put it on a more solid legal basis.

        "money talks and (most) politicians listen."

        Politicians have nothing to do with the ECJ. Not saying judges can't be bought (although given judge's pay and security of tenure vs that of politicians, the incentive is considerably less), but at least point your fingers the right way.

        1. Justthefacts Silver badge

          “Politicians have nothing to do with the ECJ”

          Not true.

          You are bringing in your preconceptions from how things are done in the UK.

          Here’s one of the judges CVs. I picked him randomly.

          https://verwaltungslehre.uni-koeln.de/en/team/thomas-von-danwitz

          You will notice two things he has never done.

          He has never practised law himself.

          He has never been a judge in any court of law at all.

          From a UK perspective, that’s just crazy, but it’s how they do things over there.

          His qualifications for being a judge at the ECJ are:

          He apprenticed to be a judge at the ECJ from a very young age.

          He has been a law professor and led some NGOs

          He was nominated by his national government (or more precisely, its civil service, no MP was ever asked) whose turn it was to pick one.

          EU judges are entirely political appointees, and that only insofar as they emanate from the civil service. That’s just how they roll. Don’t like it, you can leave.

  3. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    Whuff

    > The ruling suggests that EU trustbusters won't be able to constrain corporate behavior if alleged misconduct fails to fit within the limited definition of competitive abuse under EU law

    My initial reaction to this was: "well, HELL yeah, they can't just make shit up as they go along: the agreed powers/conditions are the agreed powers/conditions."

    But then I looked at the Treaty section's wording, and... it is in fact entirely open-ended. It formally specifies that they CAN just make shit up as they go along. The conditions' list is purely examples, listing up-front definite uses of a general wide power but not restricting that general wide power.

    But then there's the weird "is it or isn't it" possible collapse of all authority unless the actions-of-interest explicitly create a problem with (only) inter-country transactions: " in so far as it may affect trade between Member States." -- is that supposed to be (a) a general wank flourish or (b) a scope definition? If (b), it implies 0 power for the EU in controlling market abuse in ~any normal situations.

    But then there's the oddity that (assuming (a)) the Intel situation looks to be a simple case of list item (c): "(c) applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage;"

    What a schemozzle.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Whuff

      Guff like that is why the lawyers managed to get well over a decade of well paid activity.

      Just to decide if this was either an anticompetitive blackmail/bribe or valid contractual terms.

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Whuff

      Well, IMHO this was a tough case from the beginning.

      I am going to play devil's advocate. If you are not in the mood to hear an alternative viewpoint on possible outcomes, stop here.

      If Intel was guilty of anti-competitive practices for offering "rebates", then it opens the door to consider any rebate that can be interpreted as a volume discount as "anti-competitive", because [I am sure] Intel would have brought up their defense of the rebate as, indeed, a "volume discount" for "loyal customers" (and many, many industries use these terms and conditions).

      Intel phrased the cash back as "rebate", which in legal terms means something given in return for doing something else. That "something else" could mean anything from meeting a sales quantity goal to meeting quality production goals. Intel could have claimed that the "rebate" was given after the sale, and therefore the purchasers was both under no guarantees nor obligation to accept the rebate clauses as a prerequisite for making the purchase. You buy an inkjet printer that states a "rebate" against the purchase price once you meet all qualifications, but it is still up to you to accept the original purchase price along with the risk that the company will not fulfill your rebate because you did not properly meet all qualifications. You purchased based on the belief that it would get the rebate, but, still, it was legally up to you to accept both the original purchase price and the rebate restrictions.

      So Intel may have come into the court with these directional statements, that their "rebate" was subject to many conditions being met and therefore can not be considered "anti-competitive" because it was up to the purchaser to both accept the rebate conditions *and* meet them. Only then would they get the rebate, and any "anti-competitive" practice therefore wasn't on their shoulders, as they were only offering "loyal customer" benefits as per other industries.

  4. Lord of Fries
    Coat

    Wrong article, I thought this was the one about the new chip factories in Europe

    ... and then, maybe it is.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Wrong article, I thought this was the one about the new chip factories in Europe

      peas and gravy on mine please!

  5. steamnut

    How much?

    After all of these years a complete non-result. Intel kept its $1.2bn and the lawyers all got paid handsomely. What a huge waste of time.

    But wait, do I hear sound of breaking ground somewhere in the EU? It is! Oh, a new EU funded IC plant is being built for Intel. Who knew?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Justice <cough> is the same all over the world ..... if you have lots & lots of money !!!

    Intel simply used the tried & tested method as used in the US of A.

    (As used by Big Tech Companies, Trump Dynasty(!!??), Global Consultancies, Financial & Bankng Corporations etc etc)

    Keep throwing money at the lawyers to make the case run on and on and on ..... until you have the result you want !!!

    Nice to know that the EU follows the same universal rules :)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The EU in a nutshell

    A glacial, decades long bureaucratic legal process resulting in something that's either unenforced or unenforceable. Chocolate teapot springs to mind.

    But hey, at least thousands upon thousands of penpushers got to spunk the hard earned tax money of EU citizens up the wall, right?

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: The EU in a nutshell

      A big thank you from all the Brussels restauranters, entertainment & personal services providers.

  8. _LC_ Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Open banana courts

    In most countries we are now seeing openly that courts are corrupt to the bone. The rule of the top 1% is being bestowed on us all.

    There's nothing to be seen here. Put on your muzzle and go away!

    1. Santa from Exeter
      Stop

      Re: Open banana courts @LC

      Downvoted for the Bullshit Ani-vax Anti-masker 'Muzzle' comment

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Open banana courts @LC

        bit of a leap , LC could be a totally different kind of tinfoil Hatter

      2. _LC_ Silver badge

        Re: Open banana courts @LC

        Those masks were not invented yesterday.

        You are imputing incompetence to those who have studied this stuff for decades. You are pretending that they put it on these things for the fun of it. No, they put it there after being sued by morons who seriously believed that you could protect yourself from viruses with a rag on your face.

        Tip: The body of a healthy(!) person contains more viruses than body cells. How does that work? Quite simple: viruses are DAMN small.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Open banana courts @LC

          "morons who seriously believed that you could protect yourself from viruses with a rag on your face"

          If only there were studies on the matter, like, oh, Cambridge Universities Hospitals Trust, which demonstrated 95%+ reduction in infections when wearing FFP3 maskes compared to surgical masks? (for what it's worth, cloth/home-made masks have been shown to reduce transmission by about 30% by capturing larger particles and slowing other particles down, so they stay airborne for shorter periods).

          Fun things to look up: Brownian motion and Van Der Wahl's forces.

          1. _LC_ Silver badge

            Re: Open banana courts @LC

            Damn all those thousands of researches who did the studies before, over decades and decades, all over the world. I'm so glad that the - not paid and bought by you-know-who - “Cambridge Universities Hospitals UnTrustWorthy” has shown them to be all idiots.

            I'm waiting for their new mask studies on how to filter out the CO2 from the air. ;-P

        2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: Open banana courts @LC

          I come to this site to get away from rabid , usually far right trumpkins, anti vax/maskers that i encounter o other sites

          1. _LC_ Silver badge

            Re: Open banana courts @LC

            Sorry, maybe evacuate GCHQ headquarters or are you working from home?

      3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Open banana courts @LC

        That's the only part of the spew of far right propaganda that bothers you?

  9. steelpillow Silver badge
    Trollface

    Take it to the top

    All this teaches us is that whoever can afford to take it to the top first, wins.

    Step 1: Ensure your pockets are good and deep.

    Step 2: Let your rival win the second-tier appeal, ensuring you are the one who takes it to the final countdown and the holes in your own case will never be re-examined.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Take it to the top

      Ive been struggling with step 1 for decades

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Take it to the top

      "All this teaches us is that whoever can afford to take it to the top first, wins. "

      I'm terribly sorry, but since when was this NOT true?

  10. Scott Pedigo

    There was a time when...

    Dell PCs had a good price-performance ratio compared to the original IBM PC and good IBM PC compatibility compared to the competitors.

    At the time, I read that if you ordered several PCs with a given specification, they might not all have exactly the same components, e.g. if you selected a 200 MB HD you'd get a 200 MB HD, but the builders would grab a 200 MB HD from the stock of whatever manufacturer they had on hand.

    I didn't care about that, as I wanted just one PC for me. I ordered one, used it for years until it became obsolete, and was happy with it. I alternated between ordering components and assembling my own PCs and being lazy and ordering complete ones if the price was right.

    At one point I wanted a Dell PC, but I also wanted an AMD CPU, and Dell didn't offer any. Another time, I wanted a Dell PC, but with Linux and not the Windows OS. When I couldn't get what I wanted, I stopped buying Dell and went back to assembling my own PCs.

    Decades later my then employer went through a phase where all the developers got Dell towers and the occasional laptop. Later they switched to giving everyone Lenovo ThinkPads.

    But there was definitely a time when I found the Dell Wintel lock-up frustrating, and it DID deny me choice, and probably cost AMD some chip sales. So should Intel get a free pass on that now?

    I'm surprised AMD survived, after having to sell off the family jewels and silverware, their fabs and even their own home office (and rent it back). The company was losing a few cents per share, quarter after quarter, year after year. Credit to Lisa Su for turning that around. Miners buying up graphics cards probably was a key factor for the bottom line.

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: There was a time when...

      The original X86 license was awarded to AMD because the US Gov required at least 2 sources for the chips that they were buying. So for Intel to be able to get Gov contracts they needed a second player also being able to offer X86 CPUs.

      I don't know if that is still the case but if it is, i guess AMD would have been bailed out by the US Gov should they have gone tits up back in the days when Intel was doing their shady dealings.

    2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: There was a time when...

      "So should Intel get a free pass on that now?"

      The question is whether they did something anticompetitive or whether it was just ordinary business. Retailers choosing what to stock is normal, and often it doesn't make business sense to stock multiple competing products even without unfair incentives.

  11. luis river

    Corrupt capitostes European Union?

    Fatal outcome of this matter, the weaving of the capitostes of the European Union, they have committed a great outrage. They have illegitimately favored the powerful (Intel) and against the modest and feisty AMD. Free competition is broken, I hope right America will take action!!

  12. Charlie van Becelaere

    I don't think that means what you think it means.

    "We welcome today's ruling by the General Court as we have always believed that our actions regarding rebates were lawful and did not harm competition," a company spokesperson told The Register in an emailed statement.

    If the rebates weren't meant to harm their competition, what were they meant to do? Surely this is doublespeak of the most double plus ungood variety.

    1. Scott Pedigo
      Big Brother

      Re: I don't think that means what you think it means.

      >> Surely this is doublespeak of the most double plus ungood variety.

      Thanks, now I have the song from the Eurythmics 1984 album stuck in my head.

  13. cornetman Silver badge

    > "The semiconductor industry has never been more competitive than it is today..."

    So Intel, why is this exactly? Might it be because you use to bribe dealers to not supply competitors offerings?

  14. bigtreeman

    Precedent

    Now Intel has set a precedent that other companies can give the middle finger to EU.

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