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EC criticised over Intel case

Evidence gathering not up to scratch

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The European Union Ombudsman has accused competition regulators of poor record keeping over aspects of the recent anti-trust case against Intel.

The report, which won't have any impact on the verdict or on Intel's €1.06bn fine, is yet to be published but is expected to accuse the competition commission of "maladministration".

The criticism centres on a meeting between investigators and a senior executive from Dell in August 2006, The Wall Street Journal, which saw the document, reports. The Dell exec told the Commission that it felt the performance of AMD's chips was "very poor" - suggesting that was the reason it rejected the processors, not because it was leant on by Intel.

This obviously counters the European Commission's view that Intel used its market strength to force manufacturers to take its chips rather than AMD's.

Well that might be what happened. The ombudsman's main complaint is that there was no formal record made of this meeting, so it is impossible to know exactly what was said.

The Commission argued that it had discretion to include or exclude evidence which may well have been duplicated elsewhere. But the ombudsman believed the Commission had overstepped the mark and that some of the Dell exec's remarks should have been formally recorded.

Even if the Dell executive's comments had been recorded, it is unlikely to have swayed the Commission's final verdict, which found Intel guilty of anticompetitive practices in relation to several manufacturers and a retailer.

The case was marked by more than usual bitterness. In May, Intel accused the Commission of relying on dodgy evidence and ignoring evidence which contradicted its view.

A spokeswoman for the ombudsman declined to comment. ®

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