Intel to appeal EU antitrust fine

Intel will appeal a European Commission fine against the company in 2009, for breaching antitrust and competition laws for blocking AMD sales and harming the rival chipmaker.

Intel is to appeal a €1.06 billion ($1.4bn) antitrust fine imposed by the European Commission in the region's second highest court.

The chipmaker will ask the Luxembourg-based European General Court during a four-day hearing to overturn the fine, arguing that European regulators failed to actively prove its case against the company, according to sources speaking to Reuters,

Intel was accused of blocking rival AMD and engaged in anti-competitive behaviour, including making direct payments to manufacturers in a bid to delay or cancel product launches that include AMD chip.

The Commission detailed how Intel gave conditional rebates to Dell if it bought Intel-only processors. An internal Dell email dated February 2004 warned that selling AMD machines could lead to the rebates being withheld.

The Commission's 518-page decision was collated from on-premise inspections, submissions and complaints from other companies, and from Intel itself. It details how Intel had manipulated competition to deny consumers a choice of processors, and "harmed millions" in a bid to maintain its global dominance in the chip market.

But Intel has gathered the backing of the European Ombudsman, who blasted the Commission for making a series of errors in procedure during the course of its investigation.

The Ombudsman said "maladministration" had led to the release of his non-binding report issued nearly six-months after the ruling, because the Commission had not taken adequate notes on its meeting with Dell.

For antitrust and anti-competition fines, the European Commission can fine up to 10 percent of a company's global annual turnover. Intel said the fine, which represented 4.15 percent of its 2008 turnover, the year before the Commission ruled on the case, was "manifestly disproportionate".

The fine was nearly double that of Microsoft's antitrust fine in 2004, marking the largest corporate fine in Europe's history.

The case will be heard at the European General Court from July 3 to July 6.