The European Commission has put Germany and Italy under investigation to determine if the countries have been illegally favouring computers with semiconductors from Intel to the detriment of rivals such as Advanced Micro Devices.
The commission is concerned about practices that come under its public procurement procedure laws, which forbid contracting authorities from referring to a specific product or process, said commission spokesman Jonathan Todd.
"We sent a letter of formal notice to both Germany and Italy on 30 March, which is a formal request for information," Todd said. They have until 30 May to reply.
The commission is also considering similar investigations into Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands and EEA (European Economic Area) member Norway, Todd said.
The commission had looked at Sweden, but last month the government authorities issued a clarification of its public procurement policy that satisfied the commission.
The EU is concerned that governments may be paying too much for computers because thousands of tenders across the EU specify Intel chips by name or, more indirectly, by referring to specific document rate or megahertz that correspond only to Intel products.
"This is about making sure that taxpayers get value for money," Todd said. He pointed to a study issued by the commission earlier this year indicating taxpayers could save about 30% on procurements obtained through open and competitive bidding.
Laura Rohde writes for IDG News Service