The Google case is among those being investigated by Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s competition commissioner. Her office has several other inquiries of the search giant in progress, and it has opened an investigation into the chip maker Qualcomm for possible abuse of a dominant market position.
European authorities have also demanded that Apple repay about $14.5 billion in back taxes in Ireland, started investigating Amazon’s tax practices in Europe, and have raised questions about Facebook’s handling of data. The companies all deny any wrongdoing.
The case being considered on Wednesday centered on claims that Intel had abused its dominant position in the microchip market. The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, found that the company had offered rebates and incentives to computer makers to favor its products over those of a rival, Advanced Micro Devices.
The commission argued that such rebates, offered to manufacturers like Dell, Lenovo, HP and NEC, were anticompetitive. That argument raised questions about how many common practices in the digital world, such as the bundling of products or services, could be found to violate antitrust rules.
In a statement, the European Court of Justice said that a lower court would have to “examine, in the light of the arguments put forward by Intel, whether the rebates at issue are capable of restricting competition.” It did not strike down the original ruling.
European Union antitrust officials have sought to cultivate a reputation for sound and fair enforcement of competition rules, and their decisions have outsize impact. That is because their investigations apply across the 28-nation European Union, home to 500 million consumers, but also because many competition regulators around the world take cues from Brussels rulings.
Still, Europe’s antitrust officials have been criticized by some legal experts and lawmakers, particularly in the United States, who say they have too much power to levy fines and to force companies to change business practices, often without court orders.