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EU dives into Intel antitrust specifics

European antitrust regulators publish internal e-mails detailing alleged antitrust behavior by Intel.

European antitrust regulators on Monday published internal e-mails that detail alleged antitrust behavior by Intel.

The European Commission Monday published a "non-confidential version" of its May 13 decision against Intel, which imposed a fine of $1.45 billion against the chip giant. That decision found that Intel broke EC Treaty antitrust rules (Article 82) by engaging in illegal practices to exclude competitors from the market for "x86" central processing units (CPUs).

The EC action was based on complaints from Intel's chief rival, Advanced Micro Devices.

Intel appealed the decision in July to a European court, saying that "evidence was ignored or misinterpreted."

Today, the EC fired back. Some of Monday's particulars from the EC press release include:

  • Intel rebates to Lenovo during year 2007 "were conditioned on Lenovo purchasing its CPU needs for its notebook segment exclusively from Intel. For example, in a December 2006 e-mail, a Lenovo executive stated: 'Late last week Lenovo cut a lucrative deal with Intel. As a result of this, we will not be introducing AMD based products in 2007 for our Notebook products'."

  • Intel rebates to Dell from December 2002 to December 2005 were conditioned on Dell purchasing CPUs exclusively from Intel. For example, in an internal Dell presentation of February 2003, Dell noted that should Dell switch any part of its CPU supplies from Intel to its competitor AMD, Intel retaliation "could be severe and prolonged with impact to all LOBs [Lines of Business]."

  • Intel rebates to HP from November 2002 to May 2005 were conditioned on HP purchasing no less than 95 percent of its CPU needs for business desktops from Intel (the remaining 5 percent that HP could purchase from AMD was then subject to further restrictive conditions set out below). In a submission to the Commission, HP stated that "Intel granted the credits subject to the following unwritten requirements: a) that HP should purchase at least 95% of its business desktop system from Intel ..." An HP executive wrote: 'PLEASE DO NOT... communicate to the regions, your team members or AMD that we are constrained to 5% AMD by pursuing the Intel agreement.'"

  • The EC also cited "Naked Restrictions" such as: "Intel payments to Acer were conditioned on Acer postponing the launch of an AMD-based notebook from September 2003 to January 2004. For example, in a September 2003 email, an Intel executive reported: "good news just came from [Acer Senior Executive] that Acer decides to drop AMD K8 [notebook product] throughout 2003 around the world...They keep pushing back until today, after the call with [Intel executive] this morning, [Acer Senior Executive] just confirmed that they decide to drop AMD K8 throughout 2003 around the world. [Acer Senior Executive] has got this direction from [Acer Senior Executive] as well and will follow through in EMEA [Europe Middle East and Africa region]".

AMD was quick to chime in with a comment Monday. "This is the first time that Intel has had to confront now publicly available facts of its illegal behavior and it won't be the last. The U.S. FTC and New York Attorney General's continuing investigations and AMD's civil case against Intel will provide other clear demonstrations of Intel breaking the law, and we remain confident that we will win our U.S. civil case against Intel, which goes to trial in March," AMD said.

Intel also issued a response Monday. "There is nothing new here. This Decision reflects the underlying bias we have come to expect from the case team that ran this investigation," Intel said. "The Commission relied heavily on speculation found in e-mails from lower level employees that did not participate in the negotiation of the relevant agreements," Intel said. "At the same time, they ignored or minimized hard evidence of what actually happened, including highly authoritative documents, written declarations and testimony given under oath by senior individuals who negotiated the transactions at issue."

Intel continued: "Also, the Commission consistently construed ambiguous documents in a manner adverse to Intel, while overlooking or dismissing authoritative documents as 'insufficiently clear' when they contradicted the Commission's case. This pattern occurred across the board with respect to documents and statements submitted not only by Intel but also by third parties. The result was that the Commission dismissed or ignored extensive exculpatory evidence."