Qualcomm won an appeal against a €997 million fine imposed by the European Commission (EC) four years ago, marking a setback to European Union (EU) regulators tackling big tech companies over market abuses.
The General Court of the EU indicated annulled the EC’s decision because it found faults in how the case was handled.
In a statement, the court explained a “number of procedural irregularities” affected Qualcomm’s rights of defence and “invalidate the Commission’s analysis of the conduct alleged against Qualcomm”.
The US chipmaker was hit with the fine in 2018 after the EC said it abused its dominant position in the market by paying Apple to exclusively use its chips in iPhones and iPads.
At the time, EC Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager (pictured) said Qualcomm had “illegally shut out rivals from LTE baseband chipsets for over five years”, between 2011 and 2016.
Qualcomm is also in the process of appealing another EC fine: in 2019, it was penalised €242 million for breaches related to 3G technology dating back to 2010.
In 2020, the chipmaker revealed it was the subject of an ongoing EC competition investigation related to the sale of 5G equipment, with a potential penalty of 10 per cent of annual revenue or business restrictions if found guilty.
For Vestager and the EC, Wednesday’s court ruling on the Qualcomm fine is their second major defeat this year after the General Court partly annulled a €1.1 billion fine levied against Intel in 2009 over alleged attempts to exclude rival AMD.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back