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EU case relies on dodgy evidence: says Intel

War of words heats up

Intel's general counsel has made a spirited defence of the company and accused the European Competition Commission of relying on dodgy evidence and ignoring documents which contradicted its case, after receiving a record fine for anti-competitive practices.

Bruce Sewell, Intel's general counsel, said in a statement: "We take great exception to the conclusions reflected in this Final Decision and we are dismayed that in a time of such acute economic turmoil, the Competition Authorities have seen fit to intervene in what is by all objective measures an innovative, dynamic and competitive market."

He said: "The Commission decision has chosen to rely on weak pieces of evidence and to ignore evidence which contradicted its view." He said the decision relied on one piece of hearsay evidence while ignoring five pieces of sworn testimony.

He rejected the Commission's claim that Intel had ever made rebates conditional on OEMs or retailers not taking AMD chips.

He also rejected the Commission's claim that Intel had engaged in a cover-up. Sewell said: "I know of no instance where we've tried to hide anything." He said the claimed cover-up was just an excuse for the Commission's lack of actual evidence.

This is despite the insistence this morning of Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, that the Commission had documents clearly showing Intel required a company to delay an AMD based machine for six months. Sewell said he was unaware of this evidence, or of other claimed anti-competitive behaviour.

During a 50 minute conference call, Intel's chief lawyer said there had been no victimisation of either consumers or OEMs.

Sewell said Intel did not understand what was being asked of it at the moment - it is still waiting to receive the full text of the decision. He said the company had not changed the way it distributes marketing funds nor would it.

Sewell told The Register that it had had no discussion with the Commission about how marketing funds are distributed. Such funds are the juice that computer distribution runs on - disties as well as computer makers and retailers often rely on marketing money to turn dud deals into profitable ones.

Sewell made clear the company was still digesting the decision and would comply with its demands. The company has still to receive the full decision, which is 544 pages long.

Intel has faced other anti-competition complaints in Japan and Korea. The US Federal Trade Commission is also investigating Intel's behaviour - Kroes today said she looked forward to better co-operation with US authorities.

The language from both sides has been more combative than is usual - after months of negotiations and hearings there is normally more rapport and friendliness between the two sides, even if they still disagree profoundly.

Intel has some months to file an official appeal, which would be heard in the Court of First Instance. In the meantime it must provide evidence that it has put the fine into an escrow-type account. The money, assuming the appeal fails, goes into central European budgets. It works out at 4.15 per cent of Intel's turnover.®

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