Intel Agrees Not to Curb Competition in Anti-trust Deal

Intel will be prohibited from conditioning benefits to computer makers in exchange for their promise to buy chips from Intel exclusively or to refuse to buy chips from others.

Intel agreed to conditions on August 4 that will open the door to renewed competition following a settlement of an antitrust probe with the U.S. government, officials said.

The Federal Trade Commission approved the settlement after charges Intel illegally stifled competition in the market for computer chips. "Intel has agreed to provisions that will open the door to renewed competition and prevent Intel from suppressing competition in the future," the commission said..

Under the settlement, Intel will be prohibited from conditioning benefits to computer makers in exchange for their promise to buy chips from Intel exclusively or to refuse to buy chips from others, the FTC said.

It would also be barred from retaliating against computer makers if they did business with non-Intel suppliers by withholding benefits from them.

"This case demonstrates that the FTC is willing to challenge anticompetitive conduct by even the most powerful companies in the fastest-moving industries," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz.

"By accepting this settlement, we open the door to competition today and address Intel's anticompetitive conduct in a way that may not have been available in a final judgment years from now," Leibowitz said.

In December, the FTC accused the world's biggest computer chipmaker of "a systematic campaign to shut out rivals' competing microchips by cutting off their access to the marketplace, and harming consumers."

The FTC alleged at the time that Intel, which has been facing similar charges in Europe and Asia, has waged a systematic campaign for a decade to shut out competing microchips produced by rivals by cutting off their access to the marketplace.

Intel produces some 80% of the microprocessors used in the world's personal computers, but has settled a dispute with rival Advanced Micro Devices.

The company said that the settlement agreement "expressly states that Intel does not admit either any violation of law or that the facts alleged in the complaint are true."

The agreement was subject to a 30-day public comment period and final approval by the commission.

"This agreement provides a framework that will allow us to continue to compete and to provide our customers the best possible products at the best prices," said Doug Melamed, Intel senior vice president and general counsel. "The settlement enables us to put an end to the expense and distraction of the FTC litigation."

The FTC had accused Intel of using "threats and rewards" with major computer makers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM to coerce them not to buy chips produced by rival companies.

European Union antitrust regulators fined Intel a record $1.45 billion last year, claiming it abused its stranglehold on the semiconductor market to crush AMD.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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