US chipmaker Intel today lost its challenge against a record €1.06 billion European Union fine handed down five years ago.

Europe's second highest court said EU regulators did not act too harshly towards the firm.

The European Commission in its 2009 decision said Intel tried to thwart rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) by giving rebates to PC makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Lenovo for buying most of their computer chips from Intel. 

The EU competition authority said Intel also paid German retail chain Media Saturn Holding to stock only computers with its chips. 

Judges at the Luxembourg-based General Court said today they backed the Commission's decision. 

"The Commission demonstrated to the requisite legal standard that Intel attempted to conceal the anti-competitive nature of its practices and implemented a long term comprehensive strategy to foreclose AMD from the strategically most important sales channels," the court said in a near 300-page decision.
Judges said the EU watchdog had not been heavy-handed with the level of the fine, equal to 4.15% of Intel's 2008 turnover, versus a possible maximum of 10%. While Commission penalties rarely hit the top figure, the rising level of fines is a source of worry for many companies.
"The General Court considers that none of the arguments raised by Intel supports the conclusion that the fine imposed is disproportionate. On the contrary, it must be considered that that fine is appropriate in the light of the facts of the case," judges said.
Intel, which can take its case further to the Court of Justice of the European Union but only on points of law, declined to say whether it would do so.
"We are very disappointed about the decision. It's a complex case which is reflected in the decision. We will begin evaluating the decision," Intel spokeswoman Sophie Jacobs said. 
The Commission welcomed the ruling, as did consumers' lobbying group BEUC.
"When large companies abuse their dominance of the market, it causes direct harm to consumers. The court's ruling issued a strong reminder that such behaviour is illegal and unacceptable," said BEUC director-general Monique Goyens.