Intel challenges $1.5 billion fine by EU regulators

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel (INTC) may not have the evil persona associated with Microsoft (MSFT), but it's taking a page from the software behemoth's playbook in challenging a €1.06 billion ($1.45 billion) fine European Union regulators assessed against the chip maker for behaving like a monopoly.

Intel, the world's largest manufacturer of computer chips with about 80 percent of the market, is asking a court to overturn a decision by EU regulators, who Intel says simply got it wrong when they levied the fine, imposed in May.
In its plea, Intel seeks to reverse regulators antitrust decision or reduce the fine, which the company called "manifestly disproportionate." EU watchdogs failed to evaluate evidence properly and infringed upon Intel's defense rights in their investigation, the company says in its plea.

Further, Intel said, EU regulators didn't sufficiently prove that the company used strong-arm sales tactics to prevent computer makers from using rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). In levying the billion-dollar fine, EU officials said Intel's decision to provide rebates to PC manufacturers -- including Dell (DELL), Acer and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) -- for buying most of their chips from Intel and delaying or halting sales of AMD-based computers amounted to illegal sales tactics.

Intel says the rebates didn't shut AMD out of the market. Moreover, it said, AMD profits and market share increased during part of the period in question -- 2002 to 2007. Further, Intel claims its rights were violated since regulators refused to grant a second hearing to challenge the charges and was denied access to documents given to an EU executive by AMD.

The European Court of First Instance has not yet set a date to hear Intel's appeal.

The fine against Intel is the largest in EU antitrust history. At the time, EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said, "Given that Intel has harmed millions of consumers ... the size of the fine should come as no surprise," reported

Last year, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft told a European Union court that a €899 million fine levied against it in February 2008 was excessive and disproportionate. EU officials assessed the fine against Microsoft for defying a 2004 order to provide interoperability information for software at reasonable rates.
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