(AFP) – Jul 18, 2008
BRUSSELS (AFP) — European regulators have filed fresh anti-trust charges against the world's largest chip maker Intel, accusing it of abusing its dominant position in the market to squeeze out its main rival.
The European Commission said Thursday it had sent a letter to Intel outlining several new complaints about the way the US giant had sought to gain an unfair advantage over its chief competitor, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
The letter contained three specific charges -- that Intel offered discounts to a major European personal computer distributor to favour its products, paid a PC maker to delay marketing a model line using AMD chips, and also paid it to use Intel's own microprocessors in preference.
The new filing "reinforces the commission's preliminary view ... that Intel has infringed EU treaty rules on abuse of a dominant position with the aim of excluding its main rival," the commission said in a statement.
Intel has eight weeks to respond to the latest Commission complaints and can subsequently seek a hearing in Brussels.
If the findings are sustained, Brussels could demand that Intel stop the alleged abuses and impose a hefty fine.
Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes recently fined Microsoft Corp. a record 899 million euros (1.42 billion dollars) in an antitrust case.
Intel issued a statement calling the accusations "unfounded," and saying they were part of a long-running AMD strategy.
The complaint filed by the European Union's executive arm "suggests that the Commission supports AMD's position that Intel should be prevented from competing fairly and offering price discounts which have resulted in lower prices for consumers," the company said.
"It's clear that the allegations stem from the same set of complaints that our competitor, AMD, has been making to regulators and courts around the world for more than 10 years."
Following an anti-trust investigation of Intel launched six years ago, the Commission sent a list of complaints to the company in July 2007, accusing it of offering "substantial" rebates to computer makers that mostly used its chips.
Europe's top competition watchdog also alleged that Intel had made payments to clients to delay or cancel products using chips made by AMD, and selling its own chips at below cost in some cases.
In May, the Commission said it intended to rule in its anti-trust case against Intel "as soon as possible" but dismissed a report that it would decide against the company in the coming months.
AMD has long accused Intel of using its grip on the market for microchips -- the brains of personal computers -- to choke off competition.
Intel's central processing units make up the computing power behind 80 percent of the world's personal computers while AMD controls about 17 percent.
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