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EU to report on Intel's complaint in antitrust case

Ombudsman to issue opinion in mid-September

The ombudsman for the European Union has confirmed receiving a complaint from Intel about the way its antitrust case was handled in Europe and said he will publish a summary of his decision later this month.

Intel complained to the ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, in July last year, alleging that "procedural errors" were made by the European Commission during its antitrust investigation of Intel, a spokeswoman for Diamandouros said.

The Commission fined Intel a record €1.06 billion in May, equivalent to $1.44 billion at the time, after finding it guilty of antitrust violations in the PC processor market. The Commission said Intel had paid rebates to system manufacturers and to Europe's largest IT retailer, Media Markt, in order to shut out competition from its closest rival, AMD.

Though the rebates had the effect of reducing PC prices, the Commission said consumers were harmed because they would have had a wider choice of products had AMD's business not been suppressed.

According to a news report in August, the ombudsman criticised the Commission for failing to include in its case file the details of a meeting with a Dell executive who told investigators that he viewed the performance of AMD as "very poor" compared to Intel.

That could suggest that Dell chose to use Intel chips in its PCs for technical reasons rather than because of the rebates, according to the report in the Wall Street Journal, which said it had seen the ombudsman's report.

On Friday an Intel spokesman confirmed receiving the report but declined to comment on its contents or about how it might affect the outcome of the case, if at all. "It's up to him to publish it," he said. "We don't know what he's going to put in and what he's going to take out."

The EU spokeswoman said Diamandouros' decision was sent to Intel in July and that a summary will be made public in mid-September.

The ombudsman's role is to try to resolve complaints about charges of misadministration at EU agencies. The ombudsman can make recommendations to resolve disputes but does not have the authority to change the outcome of cases.


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