Qualcomm successfully appeals €1 billion fine, which was imposed for allegedly reimbursing Apple

In 2018, the EU antitrust regulator fined Qualcomm €1 billion, accusing it of paying Apple to use Qualcomm modems instead of switching to rivals like Intel between 2011 and 2016. Naturally, the company appealed the fine and the European General Court (ECC) overturned the fine, reports Reuters.

‘By today’s judgment, the General Court annuls the Commission’s decision in its entirety. The General Court bases its decision on, firstly, the finding of a number of procedural irregularities that affected Qualcomm’s rights of defense and, secondly, an analysis of the anti-competitive effects of the incentive payments. ruled on the EGC, which is the second highest court in the European Union.

Things get more interesting further down in the press release (note: PDF): “… the Court observes that while the Commission concluded that the incentive payments had reduced Apple’s incentives to turn to competing suppliers for the supply of LTE chipsets, it is clear from the Commission’s decision that Apple had no technical alternative to Qualcomm’s LTE chipsets for the majority of its needs during the relevant period, namely the part corresponding, in essence, to iPhones.

The Commission has the option of appealing to the Court of Justice of the EU, but first wants to carefully consider the implications of the EGC ruling.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is leading the lawsuit against Qualcomm (image credit)

There was a similar court case in the United States by the Federal Trade Commission. Initially the FTC won, but the decision was reversed and eventually Qualcomm and Apple settled out of court.

Earlier this year, the General Court overturned a similar fine of 1.06 billion euros imposed on Intel, accused of anti-competitive practices. The original fine was imposed in 2009, then in 2014 the lower EU court dismissed Intel’s appeal, but the General Court then reversed that decision in 2017 until it finally overturned the fine at the end of January 2022.

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