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Intel loses court challenge against $1.44B EU fine

U.S. chipmaker Intel lost on Thursday its challenge against a record 1.06-billion-euro ($1.44 billion) fine handed down by European Union antitrust regulators five years ago for blocking rival Advanced Micro Devices.

The European Commission in its 2009 decision said Intel tried to thwart AMD by giving rebates to PC makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co, Japan's NEC and Lenovo for buying most of their computer chips from Intel.

The EU competition authority said Intel also paid German retail chain Media Saturn Holding to stock only computers with its chips.

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Judges at the Luxembourg-based General Court backed the Commission's decision.

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"The Commission demonstrated to the requisite legal standard that Intel attempted to conceal the anti-competitive nature of its practices and implemented a long term comprehensive strategy to foreclose AMD from the strategically most important sales channels," the court said.

Judges said the EU watchdog had not been heavy-handed with the level of the fine, equal to 4.15 percent of Intel's 2008 turnover, versus a possible maximum of 10 percent. While Commission penalties rarely hit the top figure, the rising level of fines is a source of worry for many companies.

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"The General Court considers that none of the arguments raised by Intel supports the conclusion that the fine imposed is disproportionate. On the contrary, it must be considered that that fine is appropriate in the light of the facts of the case," judges said.

Intel can take its case further to the Court of Justice of the European Union but only on points of law.

The case is T-286/09, Intel vs Commission.

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