BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — European consumers' group BEUC said Thursday it would seek to give evidence at a European Commission antitrust hearing where Intel Corp. will defend itself against charges that it used unfair tactics to grab sales from rival chipmaker AMD.
In an unusual move, BEUC said it had asked to give its views at a closed hearing March 11-12 because it believed the case was ''of crucial importance'' as computers play more of a role in consumers' everyday lives.
The EU's allegations against Intel had ''a detrimental effect on the variety of products offered to consumers, and, consequently, on the prices consumers have to pay for their personal computers,'' the consumer advocates said in a short statement.
The hearing, not open to the media, will be Intel's main chance to put forward its defense before the EU moves to decide on fines against the company that can total up to 10 percent of annual global turnover for each year of an offense.
Intel, based in Santa Clara, California, sells more than 75 percent of all microprocessors that act as the brains of computers using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system.
The EU charged Intel in July with monopoly abuse for below-cost customer rebates and pricing that the regulators claim undercut Sunnyvale, California-based Advanced Micro Devices Inc., and discouraged manufacturers from building computers with their chips.
Last week, regulators widened their probe by raiding Intel and computer retailers in Britain and Germany, searching for evidence that the companies may have broken rules that guarantee fair competition.
AMD claims Intel's wide range of bullying tactics force stores to stock Intel computers over cheaper AMD chips. Intel denies this, saying it has broken no laws and claiming AMD is fighting through the courts and filing antitrust complaints because it is failing in the marketplace.