In 2018, the European Union’s antitrust regulator delivered a major blow to the chipmaker after it imposed a fine of EUR 1 billion and accused it to pay off Apple to use Qualcomm modems over that of their competitors such as Intel in the period between 2011 to 2016. The company as expected appealed the fine and the European General Court annulled the fine as per Reuters.
Qualcomm may not be completely off the hook just yet:
The European General Court in a statement, revealed the following, “By today’s judgment, the General Court annuls, in its entirety, the Commission decision. The General Court bases its on, first, the finding of a number of procedural irregularities which affected Qualcomm’s rights of defense, and second, an analysis of the anticompetitive effects of the incentive payments,” the second-highest court in the European Union revealed.
In the official press release, the Court added to this statement, “...the General Court observes that while the Commission concluded that the incentive payments had reduced Apple’s incentives to switch to competing suppliers to source LTE chipsets, it is apparent from the Commission decision that Apple had no technical alternative to Qualcomm’s LTE chipsets for the majority of its requirements during the period concerned, namely that part corresponding, in essence, to iPhones.” The Commission now holds with it an option to appeal to the European Union’s Court of Justice, but it is likely to consider this move only after going through the entire judgment set forth by the European General Court.
A case of similar merits was brought in the USA as well by the Federal Trade Commission where the regulator initially won but their victory was short-lived as the verdict was overturned and eventually Qualcomm and Apple ended up settling outside the court.
The General Court earlier this year annulled a similar EUR 1.06 billion fine that was imposed on Intel, which was accused of anti-competitive practices. The original fine was imposed in 2009 but in 2014, the EU’s lower court dismissed Intel’s appeal. This was until the General Court overruled that decision in 2017 until annulled the fine at the end of January 2022.