The EC is investigating the Germany and Italy governments to determine whether they have unduly favoured Intel in their procurement policies.

A Commission spokesman said today that it is concerned about practices that appear to go against its laws where contracting authorities are forbidden from referring to a specific product or process. "We sent a letter of formal notice to both Germany and Italy on 30 March, which is a formal request for information," the spokesman said. The countries have until 30 May to reply.

The Commission is also considering similar investigations into Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Norway. Additionally, the Commission had looked at Sweden, but last month the Swedish 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, such as referring to specific document rate or megahertz that correspond only to Intel products.

"This is about making sure that taxpayers get value for money," said the spokesman. He pointed to a study issued by the Commission earlier this year indicating taxpayers could save about 30 percent on procurements obtained through open and competitive bidding.

A spokeswoman from rival company to Intel, AMD, said the company is fully aware of the investigations. However an Intel spokesman refused to comment.

The EU investigations are however not connected to the legal fight between AMD and Intel heard by the US Supreme Court yesterday. That case centers around legal documents regarding Intel's disputes with Intergraph that AMD wants sent to the EU in support of a complaint it filed with the Commission.