Europe’s top court orders Qualcomm to hand over data to EU officials, after US firm objected saying EU was exceeding probe scope
Qualcomm’s battle with EU antitrust regulators has suffered another setback this week after a ruling by Europe’s top court.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that Qualcomm must hand over data to EU regulators. The US firm had objected to the data demand, saying the request exceeded the investigation’s scope.
Qualcomm took its case to the General Court, Europe’s second-highest, but lost its challenge in 2019. It then appealed to the CJEU, Reuters reported.
So what is this case about?
It began in 2015, when Qualcomm was hit with two EU charges amid accusations that it tried to price rivals (namely UK phone software maker Icera) out of the 3G industry between mid 2009 and mid 2011.
Regulators said at the time that Qualcomm had abused its position as a leader in the production of semiconductors for the lucrative consumer market.
The San Diego-based company produces the chipsets for many of the world’s leading Android smartphones and tablets.
But UK-based Icera, a developer of baseband processors for 3G and 4G cellular phones and tablets filed a complaint with the European Commission way back in 2010.
Icera was subsequently acquired by graphic chip specialist Nvidia in May 2011, and it later sued Qualcomm, alleging the company’s practices drove Icera out of the marketplace.
In 2017 Qualcomm was ordered to provide more information in the case, and in 2019 the European Commission ruled that Qualcomm had engaged in ‘predatory pricing’, and it fined the US firm 242 million euros for abusing its market dominance in 3G baseband chipsets.
Since then Qualcomm has been resisting the data hand over request, and appealed the order to Europe’s highest court.
But this week the Court backed the EU antitrust watchdog.
“Having regard to the broad powers of investigation conferred on the Commission by Regulation No 1/2003, it is for the Commission to decide whether a particular item of information is necessary to enable it to bring to light an infringement of the competition rules,” judges reportedly said.