Qualcomm Seeks to Overturn 258.4 Million Euro EU Antitrust Fine
US chipmaker Qualcomm returned to Europe's second-top Court seeking to overturn a 242-million-euro ($258.4 million) EU antitrust fine, a year after it had convinced the same Court to throw out a much bigger penalty in another antitrust case.
The European Commission had imposed the fine on Qualcomm in 2019 for selling its chipsets below cost between 2009 and 2011, in a practice known as predatory pricing, to impede British phone software maker Icera, now part of Nvidia Corp.
In 2022, the company was able to secure a major win as it had managed to convince the General Court to scrap a 997-million-euro EU antitrust fine related to payments made to Apple so that its iPhones and iPads could use only Apple's chips in order to block out rivals such as Intel.
Qualcomm lawyer Miguel Rato criticised the Commission's investigations against the company on the first day of the three-day hearing.
“This is the second instalment of the Commission's campaign against Qualcomm. The first was the exclusivity decision squashed by the Court,” he told the General Court.
He said the 3G baseband chipsets singled out in the case accounted for just 0.7% of the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) market and thus it was not possible for Qualcomm to shut out rivals from the chipset market.
“What price should Qualcomm have charged for each chipset and each quarter to allow it to pass the price cost test?” Rato further questioned.
Qualcomm's actions showed it was determined to eliminate a rival before it could pose a competitive threat, Commission lawyer Carlos Urraca Caviedes informed the court.
“Icera was about to gain a solid foothold in the market segment which was strategically important for future growth. Qualcomm feared that if it did not take action, Icera would grow to expand and become a formidable rival,” he explained.
The Court is expected to rule in the coming months.