EU Ombudsman Criticizes Regulators in Intel Antitrust Case

The ombudsman claims the European Commission committed "maladministration" by not recording "potentially exculpatory" comments from a senior executive with Dell.

The European Union's ombudsman criticized regulators for failing to record evidence that favored Intel when the EU found Intel abused its monopoly competing against Advanced Micro Devices.

The ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, claims the European Commission committed "maladministration" by not recording in the case file "potentially exculpatory" comments from a senior executive with Dell, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, quoting from a report not yet made public. Such a rebuke is rare on the part of the ombudsman.

According to the report, the Dell executive told EC investigators in August 2006 that the computer maker viewed the performance of AMD as "very poor," the newspaper reported. The comment opens the possibility that Dell shunned AMD not because of pressure from Intel, but because of the quality of AMD products.

An Intel spokesman told InformationWeek that the company would not comment on a document it hasn't seen.

The impact the ombudsman's report will have on the case is unclear. The EU in May imposed a record $1.45 billion fine against Intel based on the company's dealings with five computer makers, including Dell, from 2002 to 2007. The EU has yet to release its decision publicly.

The EU found that Intel kept AMD out of competition for contracts by offering computer makers rebates on the condition they buy most of their chips, often up to 95%, from Intel. Companies coaxed into not using AMD chips included Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, and NEC, according to the EU. In addition, the government bloc found that Intel made payments to major retail chain MediaMarket, so it would sell only those PCs with Intel chips.

The fine was the largest in EU history and more than double what EU regulators imposed on Microsoft in 2004 for its anti-competitive practices

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