Following receipt of a statement of objections from the European Commission (the Commission) in July 2007, Intel has again been targeted by the Commission as part of a fresh investigation into further suspected breaches of competition law.
The Commission confirmed on 12 February 2008 that it had conducted dawn raids at the premises of a manufacturer of central processing units as well as at several PC retailers. Intel has since confirmed that the investigations had taken place at its Munich offices, while stressing that it is fully cooperating with the inquiries.
As the largest manufacturer of computer chips in the world, Intel is also currently being scrutinised by the Commission in connection with allegations that it had tried to exclude its much smaller rival, Advanced Micro Devices. The Commission sent a statement of objections to Intel in July 2007 which claimed that Intel had:
- provided substantial rebates to various manufacturers conditional upon them obtaining all or the great majority of their CPU requirements from Intel;
- made payments in order to induce a manufacturer to either delay or cancel the launch of a product line incorporating an AMD-based CPU; and
- on average, offered CPUs below cost.
This latest investigation, however, focuses on Intel's relationship with retailers, with several European computer retailers also being targeted in the raids, including Media Markt in Germany, PPR in France and DSG Retail in the UK (which owns both Dixons and Currys). The investigation is also looking into whether Intel employed restrictive business practices in order to retain its position in the market, resulting in a joint Article 81 and Article 82 investigation.
With the Commission's decision against Microsoft being recently upheld by the Court of First Instance, resulting in a EUR497 million fine, Intel may be particularly wary of the Commission's growing confidence in successfully establishing an abuse of dominance in the IT sector.