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EC threatens court action over Intel-only contracts

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The European Commission (EC) has slammed member states for breaking the law by offering IT hardware contracts that explicitly demanded the use of Intel-made chips.

The organisation warned that European Union governments will have to open tenders to include hardware based on other chip makers' products - or face it in court.

Yesterday, EC officials confirmed that it had sent formal notices to the Italian and German governments, the Financial Times reports.

Both administrations have until the end of May to confirm that they have removed such limitations from future IT contracts, opening them up to vendors who supply systems based on, say, AMD processors, or from the likes of IBM, Sun and Apple. By insisting on Intel-based hardware, national governments and local authorities have limited competition, in violation of European procurement regulations and the free movement of goods, the EC says.

If the governments fail to satisfy the EC's requirements, they will be served with a written warning and potentially a date in the European Court of Justice.

Germany and Italy may be the only countries to receive a formal tendering policy change request, but the EC is also looking into contracts offered for tender in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Austria and Finland. Those countries are currently under investigation.

The EC has already approached Sweden, which has put in place rules requiring tenders to be open to products that are "equivalent" to Intel's, the FT said.

It should be noted that while Intel may have benefited from allegedly unfair tendering practices, the chip giant is not itself a focus of these specific EC investigations. EC officials are, however, looking into separate claims from AMD that Intel put pressure on PC manufacturers not to use AMD processors. ®

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