Intel expected to face Commission antitrust action

European competition officials are close to presenting their antitrust case against Intel, according to reports from Commission sources. European Commission staff are said to have already conducted an internal trial of their arguments before going public.

The European Commission's five year investigation of Intel centres on its behaviour in a market that it dominates, though less completely than before. The company has 80% of the world's micro chip market and the Commission is investigating whether or not it abused that power.

Commission officials are said to have outlined their case before a recently introduced panel which acts as devils advocate in order to weed out weak cases before they go public.

Last year Commission officials raided Intel offices in Europe to collect documents that could contain evidence of illegal anti-competitive behaviour.

Last month it took control of a pre-existing German investigation into whether or not Intel put pressure on electronics retailer Media Markt to stock only computers using Intel chips and not those of its rival, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

"The commission is concerned that Intel has been putting pressure on Media Markt not to stock computers that include AMD chips as opposed to Intel chips," EU spokesman Jonathan Todd told reporters in September.

AMD faced a blow to its US antitrust case last week when a judge in Delaware ruled that all the allegations of illegal behaviour that took place outside the borders of the US cannot form any part of a US case. That was said to represent around half of AMD's case in that court.

Competition from AMD is stronger than ever before, which is an argument that Intel may use in any future case. Intel will shed 10,000 employees by the middle of next year in a cost cutting exercise which analysts have said is caused by AMD's more effective competition.

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