RealTime IT News

EC Widens Intel Probe

The European Commission (EC) is expanding its probe into possible Intel anti-competitive practices to include allegations of collusion between Europe's largest electronics retailer and the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker.

Following an investigation by German authorities, the EC said Monday the charges would be included in a wider, ongoing investigation of alleged Intel antitrust actions to dominate the European market for chips that run Microsoft software, according to media reports.

"We welcome cooperation among competition authorities around the world. Intel's illegal exclusivity agreement with Media Market is another recent example of what those in the industry have known for years -- that Intel abuses its super dominant monopoly in order to perpetuate its iron grip on the industry," Thomas M. McCoy, AMD executive vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer, said in a statement.

The German investigation began in July after reports surfaced that Intel pressured Metro AG -- which owns and operates hundreds of Media Markt, Media World and Saturn stores in 14 countries across Europe -- to exclude AMD-powered machines from their shelves.

"Intel's hidden agreements with Metro AG have not only manipulated the market to Intel's own advantage, they have deceived consumers across Europe by depriving them of the choice of the best products at the best prices," McCoy said.

The EC has been investigating Intel's European business practices since 2001.

Intel was not immediately available for comment, but a spokesman for the world's largest chipmaker told the BBC, "The investigation is more than five years old, so one would expect that as part of it, the Commission would look at all aspects of the case."

The spokesman said Intel would continue to fully cooperate with the EC investigation.

The German Federation of Consumer Organizations (VZBV) also jumped into the long-standing fray between Intel and AMD Monday by filing a complaint with German authorities seeking an investigation into the holding company that controls Media Markt and its policy of only selling computers with Intel chips.

In addition, VZBV Deputy Director Patrick von Braunmuehl sent a letter to EC Commissioner Neelie Kroes informing her of the VZBV complaint and expressing support for commission action in the case originally brought by AMD.

Last year, AMD filed an antitrust complaint against Intel in U.S. federal district court, accusing the company of unlawfully maintaining a monopoly in the x86 microprocessor market by shunting customers away from AMD.

AMD claims Intel paid companies like Dell and Toshiba not to do business with AMD, and paid Sony millions for exclusivity.

AMD said its share of Sony's business went from 23 percent in 2002 to 8 percent in 2003, to zero percent by 2005.