Korean FTC Makes Unscheduled Stop at Intel

Officials from South Korea's Fair Trade Commission visit Intel's Seoul office in a move the chip maker says is part of an investigation of its business practices in the country.

Officials from South Koreas Fair Trade Commission, which has been investigating Intels business practices there, made an unscheduled visit to the chip makers offices in Seoul on Feb. 7, an Intel representative at the companys Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters said.

Intel, sued over claimed U.S. antitrust law violations by rival Advanced Micro Devices last summer, has been under scrutiny by several governments of late for its business practices.

The chip maker frequently offers rebates on its chips and co-marketing funds to PC makers. The Japanese Fair Trade Commission, for one, ruled that Intel used its position to influence several Japanese PC manufacturers to limit or eliminate their use of AMD chips.

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, has been investigating Intels practices in that region as well.

An Intel representative confirmed the visit to its Seoul office, but said it was part of an ongoing investigation into its business practices, disclosed last June.

/zimages/6/28571.gifIntel and AMD are both preparing server upgrades. Click here to read more.

"The [South] Korean FTC paid an unscheduled visit to our offices in Seoul on Tuesday of this week," Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said. "It happened during normal business hours. Its part of a previously announced and ongoing inquiry into our business practices. We are continuing to cooperate and expect that at the end of the Day, they will conclude that our business practices are both fair and lawful."

Mulloy declined to comment on specifically what information the South Korean FTC representatives sought from Intel. He could not comment on a claim by AMD that the agency also visited PC makers in the country.

"Its not unusual for a company as successful as Intel to come under scrutiny," Mulloy said, offering that Intel regularly works with government regulators to explain its business practices.

AMD characterized the Korean FTC officials visit as a dawn raid and said that the agency also raided the offices of four PC companies.

AMD said it supported the Korean FTCs actions, in addition to those elsewhere.

"The dawn raids in Korea make it abundantly clear that competition authorities worldwide are intensifying their investigative efforts into Intels anti-competitive business practices because they have good reason to believe evidence of illegal monopoly abuse is there to be found," Thomas McCoy, AMDs executive vice president of legal affairs, said in a statement.

Generally, however, Intel says it has cooperated with the government investigations.

The chip maker accepted the JFTCs recommendations, which called for it to cease practices such as offering favorable prices to companies that agree to limit their use of AMD chips.

But the company said it disagreed with the JFTCs finding of facts and with the application of the law in its recommendations.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Japans and Europes investigations into Intels policies.

AMDs U.S. antitrust lawsuit against Intel claims the company has a monopoly—something that is evident by its chip market share, which despite dipping last quarter, has historically been around 80 percent—and abuses that position.

The suit, originally filed in Delaware, claims that Intel has violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton Act and the California Business and Professional Code by influencing the product plans of computer makers and therefore limiting consumers ability to choose between different types of products. The suit identifies 38 companies that AMD said Intel has pressured in one way or another.

Mulloy said a date for a scheduling conference, which would set a court date for the case, has not been set yet.

/zimages/6/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.