Korea alleges Intel violated antitrust laws

Allegations from the Korea Fair Trade Commission mark the third time in the past two years that an international government has taken a deeper look into Intel's business practices.

The planes are stacking up on the tarmac.

Investigators for the Korea Fair Trade Commission notified Intel last week they believe the chip giant violated the country's antitrust regulations, Intel confirmed Wednesday.

And with the 18-month probe completed, which included an early morning raid on Intel offices early last year, the allegations raised by the South Korea FTC investigators will be reviewed by the full FTC Commission.

The commission will issue a ruling on whether the chip giant violated the Korean Fair Trade and Monopoly Regulation Act and whether sanctions are warranted. No specific date or schedule has been established for when the commission will issue a decision.

Intel is facing a similar situation in Europe, where the European Commission's Bureau of Competition in July issued a "statement of objections," regarding Intel's business practices . The competition bureau's "statement of objections" alleged the chip giant abused its dominant market position to squeeze out its arch rival Advanced Micro Devices from the x86 chip market. Intel has up to 10 weeks to respond to those objections.

And in Japan, Intel agreed to abide by the Japan Fair Trade Commission's recommendations, stemming from its antitrust case. The Japan FTC took issue with the marketing rebates Intel offered to customers who did not use AMD's chips.

In the latest development with Korean antitrust officials, the allegations are similar to those of the other two regions at the "highest" level, in that Intel is alleged to have violated antitrust laws, said Chuck Mulloy, Intel spokesman. He declined to provide further details, noting the document sent by Korean FTC officials was confidential.

But one report in Bloomberg cited a Korean FTC official and noted the chip giant could face a fine as much as 3 percent of its annual revenues if ultimately found it broke antitrust laws.

Intel, however, hopes to convince the Korean FTC commissioners that the microprocessor market is functioning normally and is extremely competitive, Mulloy said, adding that Intel's business practices are lawful.

Intel will be given a chance to respond to the FTC's allegations. And should the commission rule against the company, Intel could then take its case to Korea's high court in Seoul, Mulloy said.

 

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