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Intel Challenges EU's $1.2B Fine Over Antitrust Behavior Against AMD

'It could impact how they do partner programs and the kind of things they can and cannot include in partner programs,' one Intel partner says of the potential impact the case against the European Commission's 2014 ruling could have on the chipmaker's partner programs.

Intel is getting another chance to challenge a fine worth $1.2 billion that was levied by the European Union's antitrust regulators more than 10 years ago for anti-competitive behavior against rival AMD.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company made its case on Tuesday before the European Union's General Court, which is re-hearing the antitrust case after the EU Court of Justice in 2017 threw out the General Court's original 2014 ruling that sided with the European Commission, Reuters reported.

[Related: Intel Partner Connect Goes Digital In Face Of Coronavirus Outbreak]

The European Commission fined Intel 1.06 billion euros in 2009 for giving what the regulatory body said were illegal rebates to OEMs Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and NEC as well as German retail group Media Saturn Holdings on the condition that they buy most of their processors from Intel. That, the European Commission said, effectively blocked AMD from competing.

In the General Court hearing Tuesday, Intel lawyer Daniel Beard challenged the European Commission's findings, saying the regulatory body didn't get it right with its economic analysis of whether the rebates to OEMs were anti-competitive.

"The Commission either took a wrong approach in its decision or it carried out an as efficient competitor (AEC) test and it got it wrong," he said, according to Reuters.

Nicholas Khan, a lawyer for the European Commission, disagreed, telling judges the case "was assessed very exhaustively in 2014." He added: "Intel’s request is a second bite at the cherry."

Intel declined to comment on the court proceedings. AMD did not respond to a request for comment.

Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based Intel distributor that also works with AMD, said regardless of the decision the General Court ultimately makes, it will likely have some sort of impact on Intel's partner programs and how it incentivizes partners to sell Intel products.

"It could impact how they do partner programs and the kind of things they can and cannot include in partner programs," he said.

Tibbils said that was the case after Intel settled with the Federal Trade Commission over an antitrust lawsuit in the United States in 2010.

"I remember when this happened before, there were a lot of changes that were made after the cases here in the U.S. in terms of partner programs, what kind of things were allowed and [return on investments] and all the things in the backend that no consumer has to deal with," he said.

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