Feb 12, 2008
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EU regulators raid Intel, computer retailers in antitrust probe

Feb 12, 2008

BRUSSELS, Feb 12, 2008 (AFP) - EU antitrust regulators stepped up a probe into microchip giant Intel on Monday February 11th by raiding the US company's German offices and computer retailers on suspicions they might have stifled competition.

The European Commission "has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated (EU) rules on restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position," a statement said.

It did not disclose the number or names of companies raided, or divulge where they took place, saying only that "commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities."

But Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy confirmed the company's offices in Munich had been targetted and said: "As is our practice, we are cooperating with investigators."

The antitrust watchdog said "the fact that the European Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour."

EU regulators have already filed antitrust charges against Intel in a long-standing case related to suspicions that it had abused its dominant market position.

British company DSG International, German store chain MediaMarkt and French retailing group PPR all confirmed that EU antitrust inspectors had visited their premises.

"I can confirm that officials from the EU Commission are currently conducting an inspection" at a site northwest of London, said a spokesman for DSG International, which is one of Europe's leading electrical retailers.

"We understand similar inspections have taken place at other companies' premises.

"This inspection relates to the ongoing investigation between Intel and AMD. We are fully cooperating with the inspection."

The ongoing antitrust case into Intel was prompted by a complaint from its smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

The commission accused Intel in July of offering "substantial" rebates to computer makers that mostly used its chips, making payments to clients to delay or cancel products using AMD's chips, and selling its chips at below cost in some cases.

AMD voiced satisfaction that the commission was widening its investigation into its arch-rival.

"This is an important expansion of the commission's investigation into Intel's illegal business practices and the resulting harm to consumers," said Giuliano Meroni, AMD president for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Intel could face hefty fines if the European Commission finds the company guilty of the charges.

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