Intel and FTC seek antitrust settlement

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Intel and the US Federal Trade Commission indicated on Monday they may soon reach an out-of-court settlement of their antitrust case, filing a a joint motion to suspend administrative trial proceedings until July 22.

The two parties said the suspension was needed while they considered potential settlement of the case originally brought by the FTC last December.

They said this would create a month’s window, till July 22, during which time they would review and discuss a proposed consent order.

“The terms of the proposed consent order are confidential and Intel will make no additional public comment on the matter at this time,” said the chipmaker in a statement.

A consent order is an alternative to litigation, whereby the FTC can gain compliance from a company it has accused of unlawful conduct.

Intel criticised the FTC last December for taking it to court when settlement discussions were already at an advanced stage.

“This case could have, and should have, been settled. Settlement talks had progressed very far but stalled when the FTC insisted on unprecedented remedies – including the restrictions on lawful price competition,” said Doug Melamed, Intel general counsel, at the time.

“The FTC’s rush to file this case will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to litigate issues that the FTC has not fully investigated.”

The FTC has alleged the world’s biggest chipmaker abused for a decade its dominant market position.

The FTC’s action followed similar charges by regulators in Europe, Japan and Korea, but its complaint against Intel was broader - alleging anti-competitive behaviour in the graphics chip market.

Intel is alleged to have not only used illegal tactics to dissuade customers from buying PC microprocessors (CPUs) from its main rival, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), but was also repeating in graphics processing units (GPUs) its tactic of slowing down competitors so it can catch up.

“There also is a dangerous probability that Intel’s unfair methods of competition could allow it to extend its monopoly into the GPU chip markets,” the FTC had said.

Intel denied the allegations and described the FTC’s case as “misguided”.

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