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California and the West

EU Probing Intel Retail Dealings

September 12, 2006|From the Associated Press

BRUSSELS — Regulators are investigating whether Intel Corp. urged Europe's largest consumer electronics retailer not to sell computers that use chips made by rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc., a European Commission spokesman said Monday.

"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 said.

He would not give details on the type of pressure that Intel reportedly put on the chain, which is owned by German retailer Metro and has more than 360 stores.

AMD, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., filed a complaint to the German antitrust office during the summer, Todd said.

The EU's executive arm now wants to include the case in a larger Europewide probe into Intel that has been underway since 2001, looking into allegations that the company abused a monopoly position for chips that run Microsoft Corp. software.

Bernhard Taubenberger, a spokesman for Media Markt's parent, Media-Saturn Corporate Group, which is part of Metro, said the company had no comment.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said AMD earlier made the Media Markt allegations as part of litigation it filed in the United States in June 2005.

"We will and have been cooperating with regulators and intend to continue to do that," he said. "We believe our business practices are both fair and lawful. The investigation is more than 5 years old, so one would expect that as part of it the commission would look at all aspects of the case."

Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., is the world's biggest computer chip maker.

The EU's Intel investigation has made little headway. EU regulators had to shut down one line of inquiry when Taiwan's Via Technologies withdrew its complaint about computer circuits in 2002. At the time, they also said they did not have enough evidence to pursue an AMD complaint on microprocessors.

AMD filed another complaint in 2004 that EU officials said they had no choice but to investigate -- or risk AMD taking court action for negligence.

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