Europe Hunts Intel

Even in what appears to be good times for Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , bad news seems to follow the chip maker. Yesterday it followed in the footsteps of Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) when the European Commission, the regulatory arm of the European Union, confirmed that it has relaunched an investigation into Intel's business practices.

The case stems from complaints from rival Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) that first came to notoriety in 2001. According to published reports, the commission is investigating whether Intel threatened PC makers with retaliation if they used AMD's processors. These same allegations induced Japanese regulators to order a raid of Intel offices near Tokyo in April.

This is the second investigation in the EU involving Intel over the past three months. In April, regulators said they would look into whether several member states ignored mandates for open procurement processes by choosing Intel-powered PCs. Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands are named as possible offenders, though no action has been taken.

Fellow Fool Seth Jayson has written extensively about the EU's punitive action against Microsoft, lampooning it for missing the big picture. You can read more about his thoughts here:

Do the Intel investigations have any more merit? Allow me to answer that by channeling Seth for a moment and expressing my desire to slap someone with a wet noodle. To be sure, the allegations of retaliation and abusing monopoly power are serious. But the investigation into Intel's business practices began three years ago with, as yet, no results. Plus, AMD has bloodied Intel lately in their bare-knuckle fight.

And then there's the "you buy too much Intel" investigation into EU government PC procurements. Psst.... Hey, guys, Intel owns 80% of the PC market. Isn't it reasonable to expect that more than a few PCs would have, uh, Intel inside?

I know I'm inviting hate mail with this rant. So be it. I don't mind a little regulation to keep capitalism in check. But the EU's recent investigative spree feels more like an attempt at wealth redistribution disguised as regulation, and that's intolerable.

What do you think of the EU's actions? Share your thoughts on our Intel discussion board.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers wishes the regulators would visit his neighborhood. He could use a little wealth redistribution where he lives. Tim owns no interest in any of the companies mentioned, and you can view his Fool profile here.


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