Qualcomm fined €242m in EU antitrust investigation

19 Jul 2019

Image: Imaginechina-Editorial/Depositphotos

After a four-year EU antitrust investigation, Qualcomm has been fined €242m for predatory pricing practices.

The European Commission has fined Qualcomm €242m for selling 3G chips at predatory prices to Huawei and ZTE between 2009 and 2011 in order to push one of its competitors, Icera, out of the market. The fine amounts to 1.27pc of Qualcomm’s global revenue for 2018.

“Baseband chipsets are key components so mobile devices can connect to the internet. Qualcomm sold these products at a price below cost to key customers with the intention of eliminating a competitor,” said EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, in a release from Brussels.

“Qualcomm’s strategic behaviour prevented competition and innovation in this market, and limited the choice available to consumers in a sector with a huge demand and potential for innovative technologies.”

Qualcomm has been in the eye of a storm of antitrust investigations of late. Last year, the European Commission fined it €997m for making large payments to Apple on the condition that it wouldn’t buy from anywhere else, which is illegal under EU antitrust rules.

The chipmaker is also currently locked in a battle with the US government, which recently ruled that it acted illegally by charging exorbitant fees to phone makers that license and use its technology. However, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) this week asked a federal appeals court for a temporary pause in the ruling.

“In the view of the executive branch,” the DoJ said in its filing, “diminishment of Qualcomm’s competitiveness in 5G innovation and standard-setting would significantly impact US national security.”

The US government has been pushing for the quick adoption of 5G technology while simultaneously making concerted efforts to prevent US companies and ally nations from partnering with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. Excluding Huawei, Qualcomm is one of the few companies that can provide the necessary infrastructure for the roll-out of the next generation of connectivity.

Qualcomm expo in south China. Image: Imaginechina-Editorial/Depositphotos

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic