26 May 2009 | Martha McKenzie-Minifie
A ?1.06 billion (£928 million) fine levied on Intel Corporation this month is the largest ever handed down by the European Commission (EC) for breach of anti-trust rules. Competition lawyers told SM there were lessons for suppliers and buyers from the case.
The EC found Intel engaged in "two specific forms of illegal practice" by giving rebates to manufacturers on condition they bought all, or almost all, of their x86 computer processing units (CPUs) from Intel and by making payments to manufacturers to halt or delay the launch of products containing competitors' x86 CPUs.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "Intel has harmed millions of European consumers."
Guy Lougher, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said purchasers in the Intel deals could have risked fines if the case had been brought differently.
He added the underlying complaint and the EC's decision were an "abuse of dominance" case that focused on the supplier but "on the same facts" the case could have been pursued as an anti-competitive agreement, meaning buyers would also have been vulnerable to fines or actions for damages.