EU Says It Will Not Appeal Qualcomm Antitrust Decision

The European Commission has confirmed it is not planning to appeal a June court decision invalidating its 997 million euro ($997m, £851m) antitrust fine against Qualcomm, in a move that brings the long-running case to an end.

Reports last month indicated the Commission would not appeal the General Court’s June decision because of the difficulty it faced in convincing the European Court of Justice, the EU’s top court.

“The Commission has carefully studied the judgment of the General Court in the Qualcomm (exclusivity payments) case and decided not to appeal to the Court of Justice,” the Commission said in a statement.

Image credit: European Commission

Anonymity

The General Court criticised the regulator’s case for procedural irregularities, including its records of meetings and conference calls with third parties, which it said affected Qualcomm’s rights of defence.

The Commission said it would continue to protect the identity of anonymous informants and confidential information.

“Such confidential information includes the identity of third parties who have presented substantiated requests to remain anonymous due to the risk of retaliation by a party under investigation,” the Commission stated.

‘Biased’

The regulator fined Qualcomm in 2018 for allegedly pressuring Apple to only buy its 4G chips with a 2011 deal that offered “significant” sums and rebates for an exclusivity deal.

San Diego-based Qualcomm told the Luxembourg-based General Court last year that the Commission’s probe was “biased” and had allowed Apple to “dictate the evidence, narrative and conclusions”.

In its June decision the General Court, the EU’s second-highest, overturned the penalty, saying that “a number of procedural irregularities” in the Commission’s decision had “affected Qualcomm’s rights of defense and invalidate” its analysis of the firm’s conduct.

The General Court invalidated the Commission’s analysis that payments made by Qualcomm to Apple were anti-competitive, saying the regulator had failed to take all the relevant facts into account.

Tech giants

The decision is a major blow to the EU’s efforts to crack down on big tech companies, which have included a major fine against Google, as well as probes into Amazon, Apple and Facebook parent Meta.

The General Court is next expected to rule on 14 September on Google’s appeal of a record 4.34bn euro fine imposed by the Commission for allegedly using its Android mobile operating system to pressure smartphone makers and phone networks to maintain its dominant position in internet search.

In January the General Court quashed a 1.06bn euro fine imposed on Intel for allegedly anticompetitive practices, saying the Commission’s economic analysis was flawed.

Before that decision the Commission had not lost a major competition case in court for more than 20 years.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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