Intel asks court to dismiss EU antitrust case

The chipmaker says the EU regulator erred in its $1.45 billion antitrust ruling

Intel has asked Europe's second highest court to annul last May's antitrust ruling against the company, accusing the regulators of erring in law and of producing sloppy analysis, according to details of the appeal made public Tuesday.

The European Commission, the European Union's top antitrust authority, fined Intel a record $1.45 billion in May for abusing its dominant position in the microprocessor chip market in Europe, at the expense of its only significant rival, AMD.

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The Commission ordered the firm to stop handing out rebates to PC manufacturers and retailers on condition of near or total exclusivity. It also ordered Intel to stop paying PC makers to delay the launch of models equipped with AMD chips.

In its appeal to the CFI (Court of First Instance) in Luxembourg, Intel said the Commission erred in law by finding that the conditional discounts it granted were abusive because the regulator failed to prove any actual foreclosure of competition.

Intel accused the Commission of "failing to conduct any analysis of foreclosure," according to the version of Intel's appeal made public by the CFI.

In addition, Europe's top antitrust authority failed "to analyze whether Intel's rebate arrangements with its customers were implemented in the territory of the European Community and/or had immediate, substantial, direct and foreseeable effects within the European Community."

The Commission also failed to give due respect to arguments Intel made prior to the May ruling, the company said. The regulator ignored Intel's argument that AMD's poor showing in certain markets was due to its own shortcomings and not due to Intel's antitrust abuse, the company said.

In addition to its arguments on the substance of the ruling, Intel accused the Commission of procedural errors that denied the company the ability to defend itself properly.

Intel described the $1.45 billion fine as "manifestly disproportionate given that the Commission fails to establish any consumer harm or foreclosure of the competitors," and asked the court to annul it. The company also asked the court to make the Commission pay its legal bill.

There is no strict timetable for an appeal at the CFI but cases are usually heard within a year of being lodged and a ruling by the CFI can take a further 18 months.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.