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Intel and Article 102 TFEU Case Law: Making Sense of a Perpetual Controversy

Pablo Ibáñez Colomo, LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 29/2-14, 2014

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In June 2014, the General Court of the EU delivered its judgment in Intel. The debates to which it has given rise in less than six months suggest that the controversy about the legal treatment of exclusive dealing and rebates under Article 102 TFEU is still very much alive. This piece seeks to make sense of the persistence of academic and non-academic discussions around the question. It appears that the real reasons behind the contentious status of the relevant case law are more limited in their nature and scope than commonly assumed. Ongoing disagreements are merely the manifestation of what can be termed a ‘friction’ in the case law.

If rulings like Intel (and previous ones like Michelin II and British Airways) are contested, this is so because they are difficult to reconcile with other judgments addressing the same or comparable issues. First, the case law on, respectively, article 101 and 102 TFEU is based on mutually incompatible premises. Secondly, and to the extent that there is no reason to presume that exclusivity and rebate schemes are implemented for anticompetitive purposes and/or to assume that they harm the competitive process, they would be assessed more sensibly under a standard – as ‘margin squeeze’ abuses and selective price cuts already are.

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