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EU fines Intel $400 million for blocking AMD's market access through payments to PC makers

A European Commission flag with an Intel logo and a gavel next to it

The European Commission has fined Intel $400 million (€376 million) for hindering competitors' access to the market through naked restrictions between 2002 and 2007. The fine comes after a long-running antitrust court battle dating back to 2009 when the Commission initially fined Intel a record $1.13 billion for abuse of dominance.

While some of Intel's actions, like hidden rebates, were dropped on appeal due to lack of evidence of harm, the Commission upheld that Intel paid PC manufacturers to delay or limit products using AMD processors.

Specifically, the Commission cited examples where Intel paid HP not to sell AMD-powered business PCs to small and medium businesses through direct channels from 2002-2005. It also paid Acer to delay the launch of an AMD-based notebook from late 2003 to early 2004. Intel also paid Lenovo to push back the launch of AMD notebooks by six months.

According to the General Court, by placing these conditions on payments, Intel was able to limit the competitive threat posed by AMD desktops in key market segments.

The Commission said the new €376 million fine reflects that Intel hindered the development and expansion of its main competitors in the x86 CPU market during nearly 5 years.

As a result of those restrictions, computer manufacturers halted, delayed or placed restrictions on the commercialisation of products based on a competitor's chipsets, which they had actively planned and for which there was consumer demand.

Intel's naked restrictions therefore had a detrimental effect on competition in the market, by depriving customers of a choice which they would have otherwise had.

However, the fight is not over as the Commission has appealed the dismissal of the rebates part of the case. And Intel could still face more fines if the appeal court rules the rebates also violated competition laws. The €376 million fine is now set in stone as Intel did not appeal that ruling.

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