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EU antitrust regulators raid Intel offices

European antitrust regulators raided Intel Corp. offices Tuesday, two weeks after rival U.S. chip-maker Advanced Micro Devices filed a lawsuit claiming Intel used its market dominance to bully computer makers away from using AMD chips.
/ Source: The Associated Press

European antitrust regulators raided Intel Corp. offices Tuesday, two weeks after rival U.S. chip-maker Advanced Micro Devices filed a lawsuit claiming Intel used its market dominance to bully computer makers away from using AMD chips.

The European Commission said it was also inspecting offices of companies that make or sell computers.

A statement from the European Union head office said the inspections involved officials from the EU’s antitrust department and national competition authorities. It said they visited several Intel premises in Europe.

EU regulators regularly conduct unannounced inspections of companies under investigation in competition cases.

“Investigations are being carried out in the framework of an ongoing competition case,” the statement said.

Officials declined to say which offices had been searched, reveal if documents had been taken away or give further details.

Intel acknowledged that several offices were “visited” by staff members from the European Commission, company spokesman Chuck Mulloy said. He declined to specify how many or what information was being sought by investigators.

“Our normal practice is to cooperate with authorities from regulatory agencies, and that’s just what we’re doing in this case,” he said.

Intel microprocessors for Windows computers account for about 90 percent of the worldwide market in revenue.

For more than four years, the EU has been investigating claims that Intel used unfair business practices to persuade clients to buy its microprocessors to the exclusion of rivals’ chips.

In March, the bloc said it was continuing its probe after a Japanese investigation found that Intel had violated antitrust rules there. The EU cooperated with the Japanese regulators.

Last year, the commission sent formal notices to France, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Italy and Germany seeking information on government procurement tenders for computers that either require they contain Intel chips or specify a chip speed that only the U.S. semiconductor giant can provide. That investigation was sparked by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

EU antitrust regulators reached a preliminary conclusion in 2002 that there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges. But in June 2004, regulators said they would look into Intel’s business practices again after AMD refused to withdraw its complaint.

On June 27, AMD sued Intel for billions of dollars in Delaware federal court, claiming that Intel strong-armed 38 computer companies into buying Intel chips. Intel denied the allegations, saying AMD was making excuses for its secondary market position.