FTC opens Intel antitrust probe

FTC opens Intel antitrust probe

[JURIST] The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] has begun a formal antitrust investigation of US computer chip manufacturer Intel Corporation [corporate website; JURIST news archive]. Intel's chip manufacturing rival, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) [corporate website] has claimed for years [AMD advocacy website] that Intel has been engaged in uncompetitive business practices, but this is the first formal action taken by the FTC. The probe constitutes a reversal of course for the Commission, which last fall was reported to have rejected the option of an investigation [JURIST report]. The New York Times has more. The San Francisco Chronicle has additional coverage.

In a statement [text] issued Friday when the probe was publicly disclosed, Intel said it has and will continue to provide information to the FTC and that it has not acted illegally:

Since 2006 Intel has been working closely with the FTC on an informal inquiry into competition in the microprocessor market and has provided the commission staff with a considerable amount of information and thousands of documents.

Consistent with its standard practice Intel will work cooperatively with the FTC staff to comply with the subpoena and continue providing information. The company believes its business practices are well within U.S. law. The evidence that this industry is fiercely competitive and working is compelling.

The investigation follows a number of worldwide legal actions and investigations involving Intel. On Thursday, the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) [official website] levied nearly $26 million in fines [JURIST report] against Intel after a KFTC probe [JURIST report] found that the company had engaged in anti-competitive practices. In February, the European Commission (EC) made an unannounced inspection [press release; JURIST report] of Intel's Munich office as part of an investigation into Intel's possible anticompetitive practices. In January, the state of New York opened its own antitrust probe [JURIST report] into Intel's actions with regard to AMD. AMD has also filed [JURIST report] a civil suit [complaint, PDF; Intel response] in the US District Court for the District of Delaware [official website] alleging antitrust violations; the case is expected to be heard next year. Last summer the EU accused Intel of violating European antitrust law [JURIST report] by providing "substantial rebates" to various original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) if the OEMs purchased the majority of their processors from Intel.