The European Commission conducted antitrust raids on Tuesday against Intel’s Munich offices and retailers selling products of the world’s largest chipmaker, the Commission and Intel said.
The European Union watchdog’s actions ratcheted up pressure on Intel and broke new ground by raiding Germany’s huge Media Markt-Saturn and British electrical goods retailer DSG International, which owns Dixons and Currys.
Intel has been preparing for a Brussels hearing on March 11 and 12 to answer pending charges of abusing its dominance of the market for central processing units (CPUs), which are at the heart of every PC.
“Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of a manufacturer of central processing units and a number of personal computer retailers,” said Jonathan Todd, a Commission spokesman.
He said the Commission, accompanied by local law enforcement staff, conducted the raids because it had reason to believe the companies “may have violated EC [European Community] treaty rules on restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position.”
Intel confirmed the raids.
[cob:Related_Articles]”There has been a raid on our offices in Munich. As is our normal practice, we are cooperating with authorities,” said Chuck Mulloy, a spokesman for the chipmaker.
In London, British retailer DSG said it was part of the sweep as well.
I can confirm that officials from the EU Commission are currently conducting an inspection at our Retail Support Centre in Hemel Hempstead,” a DSG spokesman said in a statement.
Germany’s Media Markt-Saturn also confirmed it was raided. It is a subsidiary of trading company Metro, which controls most of that country’s retail electronics market and operates in other countries as well.
The raids come as Intel faces a closed hearing in Brussels next month on charges that it slashed prices below cost and offered huge rebates in an attempt to drive smaller competitor Advanced Micro Devices out of the market.
The Commission was already investigating Media Markt-Saturn for its ties to Intel, acting on a reference from the German anti-cartel agency. The retailer sells PCs with Intel CPUs but not those by AMD.
The Commission is the EU’s antitrust watchdog and has powers to fine companies up to 10 percent of their global annual revenue for competition abuses.