Wednesday, May 13, 2009

EU fines Intel billion-plus

I've posted several times previously (most recently here) about the legal battles between Intel and AMD, and the related battles between Intel and various regulators (Korea, Japan, EU). Last June, Korea fined Intel $25 million for offering improper rebates to customers:
Intel offered about $37 million in rebates over 2 1/2 years to Samsung and Trigem on the condition that they wouldn't buy from Advanced Micro, according to commission's statement.
The EU has just handed down a fine that makes Korea's look like chump change:
The European Union fined Intel Corp. a record euro1.06 billion ($1.44 billion) on Wednesday, ordering the world's biggest computer chip maker to stop illegal sales tactics that shut out its Silicon Valley rival AMD.
The findings are detailed in the article linked, and are too lengthy to quote here, but they are similar to the Korean case:
Wrapping up an eight-year probe, the EU says Intel gave rebates to manufacturers Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and NEC for buying all or almost all their x86 computer processing units, or CPUs, from Intel and paid them to stop or delay the launch of personal computers based on AMD chips.
Intel has denied the validity of the findings and says they will appeal within the next sixty days.

I have no knowledge of who is right or wrong in this case, but obviously a fine of this size indicates the importance of reviewing your trade promotion policies carefully. For American readers who will try to draw solace from the fact that the fines have been overseas, I draw your attention to this part of the article:

[EU Competition Commissioner] Kroes said she hoped the administration of President Barack Obama would join Europe in subjecting corporations to closer anti-trust scrutiny.

This week, one of America's top antitrust officials, Christine Varney, signaled a return to tougher enforcement as the Obama administration dropped a strict interpretation of antitrust rules that saw regulators shun major action against monopolies over the last eight years.

Kroes said Varney's words gave her hope that current "close cooperation" and information exchanges with the Federal Trade Commission "could go in a very positive way" in the future.

"The more competition authorities are joining us in our philosophy, the better it is for it is a global world," she said. "The more who are doing the job ... and with the same approach then the better it is."

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