Investigators from the European commission and national competition authorities in several European countries, including Britain, on Tuesday mounted a series of dawn raids at premises of Intel, the world's leading chip maker, as part of an inquiry into alleged anti-trust activities.
The raids are linked to lawsuits and complaints filed by Intel's smaller rival, AMD, about the US group's allegedly illegal practices in maintaining its monopoly in the microprocessor market.
Officials from the Office of Fair Trading took part but the OFT refused to say which premises had been raided. Intel's operations in Swindon are understood to have been inspected along with others in Munich, Germany.
It is understood that the commission, which began investigating Intel in 2001 but almost closed the case because of lack of progress, is acting on complaints filed by AMD last year. The US company welcomed the raids.
AMD, which last year had record sales of $5bn (£2.8bn) compared with Intel's $34bn, last month filed two suits in courts in Tokyo and a further one in Delaware, alleging Intel used worldwide coercion to dissuade customers from dealing with its competitor.
Accusing Intel of "seven types of illegality across three continents," AMD named 38 companies, including Dixons in Britain, as victims of its rival's alleged coercion into accepting exclusive deals.
Dixons has said it is considering legal action against AMD and has denied allegations that it had agreed to keep AMD's share of business below 10%. It said the allegations were "poorly researched and false".
Intel said it was fully cooperating with the EU. Its chief executive, Paul Otellini, last month declared that his group "has always respected the laws of the countries in which we operate" and has competed "aggressively and fairly".
Mr Otellini said: "We firmly believe this latest suit will be resolved favourably - like the others." Every previous action "has been resolved to our satisfaction".
In its Delaware suit AMD, stung by Apple's decision to switch exclusively to Intel processors for its Mac operating system from 2006, said its rival enjoyed 80% of the global market by volume and 90% by value.
It claimed customers such as Dell, Sony, Toshiba, Gateway and Hitachi had been forced into Intel-exclusive deals in return for cash payments, discriminatory pricing or marketing subsidies.
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