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EU Preparing to Find Intel Anticompetitive?

EU Preparing to Find Intel Anticompetitive?

The European Commission has been looking into whether chipmaker Intel engages in anticompetitive behavior in the European market for over a year, first raiding Intel’s German offices in early 2008 and then piling on more antitrust allegations as its investigation continued. Now, industry reports have EU antitrust regulators getting ready to formally rule that Intel engaged in anticompetitive behavior to squelch products based on chips from rival AMD. An official announcement could come as early as Wednesday.

Reports have the European Commission preparing to rule Intel committed two antitrust violations. In the first, Intel gave rebates to computer makers who reduced or eliminated products based on chips from rival manufacturer AMD, along with other inducements to convince retailers to sell only systems with Intel CPUs. In a second charge, the commission is expected to rule Intel paid PC manufacturers to delay or cancel the launch of products based on AMD technology, so AMD would always be behind Intel’s latest products in the marketplace…or never have their products reach the market at all.

The commission is expected to rule the violations go back to at least 2001. There is no information on how large a fine, if any, the European Commission might levy against Intel for the violations. The largest fine the EC has ever issued was for anticompetitive practices by Microsoft; that was €487 million (about $655 million) in March 2004.

Intel has consistently maintained it did noting illegal in its interactions with PC manufacturers and retailers, and has referred to its rebate programs as “price discounts” that effectively lower technology prices for consumers.

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