Qualcomm, a California-based chipmaker, won its appeal against a 997-million-euro ($1.05 billion) sentence levied by EU antitrust regulators four years ago for paying Apple to use only its chips and excluding competitors like Intel Corp, striking a huge setback to EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager’s anti-Big Tech crusade.
Qualcomm allegedly paid Apple (AAPL.O) billions of dollars between 2011 and 2016 to use only its chips in all of its iPhones and iPads, according to the European Commission’s 2018 judgment (INTC.O)
According to the European Commission’s judgement from 2018, the anti-competitive behavior occurred between 2011 and 2016, with Qualcomm paying Apple billions of dollars to use its chips in all of its iPhones and iPads.
The EU’s finding was overturned by the General Court, Europe’s second-highest court, striking EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager a huge setback.
Qualcomm’s sanction is one of several levied by Vestager for anti-competitive behavior by corporations ranging from Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) to banks and truckmakers. The FBI is looking into Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.
The EU’s second-highest court, the General Court, overturned the EU’s decision and chastised the EU competition enforcer for its handling of the case.
“A number of procedural errors harmed Qualcomm’s rights of defense and invalidated the Commission’s investigation of the accused behavior against Qualcomm,” the judges found.
They stated, “The Commission did not submit an analysis that permits us to corroborate the claims that the payments in question lessened Apple’s incentives to switch to Qualcomm’s competitors in order to get supply of LTE chipsets for specified iPad models to be introduced in 2014 and 2015.”
On legal issues, the EU competition enforcer can appeal to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), Europe’s highest court.
The Commission stated that it would carefully examine the decision and its consequences before deciding on its next measures. Qualcomm did not respond to an emailed request for comment right away.
“The Court is advising the Commission to be extremely cautious in terms of price abuses,” said Assimakis Komninos, a partner at law firm White & Case.
“The Commission will now be hesitant to launch inquiries into such cases unless they are absolutely certain,” he said.
This is Vestager’s second major setback, as she lost the court’s support in January for a 1.06 billion euro fine imposed on Intel 12 years ago for squeezing rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD.O).
The General Court will rule on Google’s appeal of a record 4.34 billion euro antitrust penalties assessed for using its Android mobile operating system to drive out competitors on Sept. 14, Vestager’s next test.
“A number of procedural flaws harmed Qualcomm’s rights of defence and invalidated the Commission’s examination of the accused conduct against Qualcomm,” the judges said.
The EU competition enforcer has the right to appeal to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), Europe’s highest court, on legal issues.
T-235/18 is the case number.