Earlier this year, the European Commission slammed Intel with a massive fine, penalising the chip maker for its anticompetitive practices. A report by the European Union’s ombudsman has now criticised the EC for its conduct, as the EC did not perform proper record keeping, leading to the loss of some evidence. It won’t turn the tide for Intel, but it does raise an important question: how fair are these EC antitrust proceedings?
The ombudsman states in a report that the European Commission did not take into account a meeting during which an unnamed Dell representative told EC investigators in 2006 that AMD processors were problematic due to “very poor” performance. It’s impossible to find out what, exactly, the Dell representative said however, because the EC did not keep a written record of the meeting. When Intel asked for a record of the interview, the EC denied the meeting ever took place.
Intel is currently in appeal to the EC’s decision, but this evidence most likely won’t weigh up against the rest of the evidence. Still, all this does raise a point that often gets overlooked: Intel has not been tried in a court of law in Europe – nor has Microsoft, for that matter. These fines are administrative proceedings, during which the defendants do not get proper means to actually defend themselves.
While it’s a good thing that the European Union tries to combat companies like Intel and Microsoft, these things should take place in a proper court of law – not in a few back rooms in Brussels (or Strasbourg), lacking any form of transparency. The idea of the EU fining companies without those companies having the means to defend themselves doesn’t really sound very fair to me.