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EU weighing charges against Intel

Panel trying to decide whether to bring formal antitrust charges against the chipmaker, according to a source.

A European Commission review panel weighed evidence against Intel this week to decide whether to bring formal antitrust charges for competing unfairly against rival Advanced Micro Devices, a source familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

The Commission has been investigating Intel to determine if it used illegal techniques such as unfair rebates to prevent smaller AMD from expanding its market share.

There is no deadline for the Commission to decide whether to take the case further.

Most of the central processing units for the world's 1 billion personal computers are manufactured by either Intel or AMD.

But Intel has been dominant in the market, controlling nearly 80 percent. AMD has contended that although its market share has risen recently because of the quality of its products it has reached a plateau because companies are afraid or reluctant to switch from Intel, because of their rebate policies.

Intel strenuously denies the charges.

"We believe our business practices are both fair and lawful. We have been and will continue to cooperate with the investigators from the Commission," said Chuck Mulloy, spokesman for Intel.

The Commission has been considering for months whether to move forward with the case. More than once it appeared that the Commission was nearing a decision on formal charges, only to be delayed again because of doubts, sources familiar with the situation said.

If the latest reviewers approve the work of the case team that believes Intel's approach illegal, that would help move forward the Commission's decision to issue a formal "statement of objections" against the company.

Intel would then be able to respond to the charges before the Commission decided the case.

But if the review is unfavorable then the case may move to the back burner.

AMD has been pressing legal action in venues around the world to get what it considers a fair hearing. It has sued Intel in the United States and also made its case in Asia and South America.

So far, the Federal Trade Commission in the United States has shown little inclination to pursue the matter actively.