Intel’s Human Rights

The fact that Intel is arguing that its billion Euro fine infringed its human rights, suggests that Intel’s lawyers are scraping the barrel a bit.

 

Undoubtedly, companies do come under the scope of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 34 of the Convention says that the European Court of Human Rights can receive applications from ‘non-governmental organisations’ and it has been established that this includes companies.

But there seems something comic in the idea that a code intended to protect the downtrodden and the dispossessed should be invoked by a company with revenues not far short of $40 billion a year, and which is known for being a tough operator.

The reason why Intel has taken this tack is thought to be because the size of the fine cannot simply be brushed off as a tax on the way Intel does business, but is a statement of Intel’s criminality – a criminality which needs punishment.

If Intel is to be treated like a criminal, the argument goes, then it should be judged like a criminal – i.e. up before a court, rather than by a European Commissioner hearing the evidence, and making a judgment, in private.

This, of course, is exactly how Intel’s appeal against the fine will be conducted – up before a court with lawyers arguing the toss. In this case it will be the European Court of First Instance.

The curious thing about the EC-Intel judgment was the categorical way in which the two sides dismissed eachother’s positions.

For instance one allegation was that Intel paid manufacturers to delay AMD product launches.

 

Asked if Intel had done this, Sewell responded: “I can absolutely and categorically deny it, and I do deny it.”

 

Nonetheless, the Commissioner stated: ‘The Commission has specific, documented examples, of Intel paying other manufacturers to, for example, delay the launch of an AMD-based PC by six months.”  

 

Asked if the Commissioner was lying, Sewell’s replied: “I am not aware of any such document.”

 

It looks as if it will take a court of law to decide what the evidence proves and what it does not prove.

 

And Intel will undoubtedly get its day in court.

Tags: curious thing, european court of human rights, judgment, lawyers, scraping the barrel

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4 Comments

  1. David Manners
    July 27, 2009 11:07

    Cheese, I think you answered your own question when you said ‘given Intel’s seemingly monopolistic market position’ – everything Intel has done is perfectly acceptable competitive practice in any market in any country, but when a company gets a very high market share it is held to a much higher standard of business conduct. This is the same in every legal jurisdiction in the world – all pretty much copied from the US Sherman Act of 1890. Intel knows this very well – so when it bangs on about how ‘competitive’ the x86 market is, or how unfair it is that it can’t pay PC dealers not to buy AMD chips, Intel is being disingenuous.

  2. David Manners
    July 27, 2009 10:56

    Well Elmer, I supplose it was politically appointed bureaucrats in Korea and Japan, as well as in Europe, who found Intel guilty of malpractice and, if the Attorney General of New York State can be described as a politically appointed bureaucrat, then it’s the same situation in the USA as well. That seems to be the way it is in the anti-trust business all over the world.

  3. Cheese
    July 27, 2009 06:43

    The case of Intel and it’s business ethics (or lack of it) is intriguing on the one hand, while on the other, is quite “unremarkable”. Let me dwell on the “unremarkable” aspect of this story (and yes, play the contrarian, again).
    Manufacturers of everything from bread to computers push their products by getting their “channel partners” to sign up on exclusivity deals to enjoy benefits – typically higher dealer-margins.
    Supermarkets, for example, promote certain brands over others, due to these preferred brands offering better dealer margins than the others. You can buy a TV at a supermarket for a certain price, whereas a comparable TV of another brand and with a *lower price* is not in their stock. Do you take the supermarket to court for this?
    While one can argue that the case of Intel is dramatically different from supermarket products (given Intel’s seemingly monopolistic market position, business volume, impact, business models etc), the point that one cannot miss is that Intel is in business, just as the bakeries (and not to mention higher value players such as TV makers) who see the supermarkets as their “channel partners”, and choose to deal with them, as they please.
    Several other examples come to mind – Powerful CE brands routinely over-book their suppliers to deny the availability of this commodity to competition.
    In many ways, what Intel has allegedly done (which is offering discounts to companies for delaying their AMD PCs) is “almost normal”, definitely “unremarkable”, in the business world.
    Shouldn’t the EU legal eagles apply the same yardstick to all businesses, as against stonewall one of them, merely for it’s size?

  4. Elmer Phud
    July 27, 2009 03:26

    A politically appointed bureaucrat acted as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. The “evidence” is a document that Intel hasn’t seen or been allowed to challenge. Intel had no subpoena power in it’s own defense or the ability to confront those who accused it.
    You don’t see something wrong with the process?

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