Epstein on EC's Intel Decision

The European Commission Strikes Again
Richard Epstein
May 29, 2009

On May 13, 2009, the European Commission fined Intel just over €1bn for its supposed abuse of its dominant market position in violation of Article 82 of the EC Treaty. That decision marks yet another effort by commissioner Neelie Kroes to ratchet up the enforcement of EC competition policy, all in the name of preventing consumer harm. Yet the devil lies in this one detail. The aggrieved "consumer" of Intel is its long-time junior rival, AMD, which filed three separate complaints against Intel between 2000 and 2006.

It is not just happenstance that one American company decided to pursue another American company in Europe. During those years, the Bush administration kept - wisely in my view - a tight lid on monopolisation cases brought under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, the parallel provision to Article 82. Yet recently, that commendable restraint has gone by the boards, as the new US Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, Christine Varney, unceremoniously dumped the Bush 2008 Report on Single Firm Conduct in a speech given two days before the Intel decision came down, which I have already criticised elsewhere.

Richard A. Epstein