Qualcomm Faces Additional EU Pricing Violation Charge

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

European antitrust regulators add a fresh violation in its case against Qualcomm over ‘predatory pricing’

US chipmaker Qualcomm has more troubled on this side of the pond after EU antitrust regulators added a fresh violation to its investigation of the firm.

It said it was not happy as “certain elements of the ‘price-cost’ test applied by the Commission to assess the extent to which UMTS baseband chipsets were sold by Qualcomm at prices below cost.”

This stems from an ongoing European investigation of Qualcomm, that began back in 2015.

Fresh violation

Qualcomm was hit with two EU charges in 2015 amid accusations that it tried to price rivals out of the mobile device industry.

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 its troubled began when 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. At that time, it accused Qualcomm of anti-competitive behaviour.

Icera was subsequently acquired by graphic chip specialist Nvidia in May 2011.

Essentially, the European Commission is investigating whether Qualcomm engaged in ‘predatory pricing’.

“In particular, the Commission’s preliminary view is that between 2009 and 2011 Qualcomm sold certain UMTS baseband chipsets at prices below cost, with the intention of eliminating Icera, its main competitor in the leading edge segment of the market at that time,” it said.

Mobile chips

For the record, UMTS chipsets are key components of mobile devices as they enable both voice and data transmission in third generation (3G) cellular communication.

“The Supplementary Statement of Objections sent today focuses on certain elements of the “price-cost” test applied by the Commission to assess the extent to which UMTS baseband chipsets were sold by Qualcomm at prices below cost,” said the Commission.

Qualcomm can face a fine up to 10 percent of its global turnover if found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules.

And it should be noted that Qualcomm has already been slapped with a 997m euro (£891m) penalty in January this year.

That fine was for paying Apple to use only its chips in a bid to squeeze out rival Intel and others.

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