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Korean antitrust regulators visit Intel

A "dawn raid," as AMD described it? Or an unscheduled visit for more documents? Its marketing practices are in question.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
The Korean Fair Trade Commission popped into Intel unannounced this week to seek more documents on an antitrust claim in South Korea.

The KTFC is looking into whether Intel has used marketing programs, product discounts or sales quotas in a manner that violated Korean antitrust law. Last year, the Japanese FTC asserted that Intel signed contracts with Japanese PC makers that effectively required these companies to limit the amount of processors they buy from Advanced Micro Devices.

Intel disputed the JFTC's finding of facts and law, but it agreed to send relevant employees to mandatory training classes and to give up some business practices. Intel did not pay fines.

The nature of the raid in Seoul depends on one's perspective. AMD called the visit by the KFTC a dawn raid and used the terms "dawn raid" and "dawn raids" at least seven times in a press release. AMD also said news reports from Seoul indicated that the KFTC visited four or five other PC makers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

An Intel representative described it somewhat differently. It was an unscheduled visit on Wednesday, but it took place during business hours. The KFTC officials wanted further information and documentation on Intel's business practices, he said. Earlier in the year, Intel provided documents to the KFTC.

"It is not unusual for agencies to ask for follow-up," the representative added.

Intel is currently facing a number of antitrust challenges worldwide. Besides the Japanese and Korean investigations, an investigation is pending in Europe. AMD has also filed an antitrust suit against Intel in the United States. The allegations in the different actions are similar and revolve around whether Intel coerced PC makers into buying more Intel chips, and fewer AMD chips, than they might have liked.

The nub of the cases is what amounts to coercion. The allegations charge that Intel used marketing dollars to coerce them. Some PC executives, however, have said those marketing dollars were welcome.

AMD, however, has promised to produce witness testimony and e-mails that demonstrate the coercive nature of some of these programs.