The General Court of the European Union has annulled a competition fine of almost one billion euros against the chip manufacturer Qualcomm. The court announced on Wednesday that several procedural errors had been found. In addition, the responsible EU Commission did not take into account all relevant factors when analyzing the case (Case T-235/18).
In 2018, Qualcomm was fined because she believed that the American company had paid Apple billions of dollars so that Apple would not buy from the competition, according to the responsible EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager at the time.
As a result, competitors were illegally excluded from the market for so-called LTE baseband chipsets for more than five years. According to the assessment of the competition watchdog, the company primarily tried to prevent stronger competition from Intel.
However, the court did not follow the reasoning: “With its judgment today, the court declares the decision of the Commission to be void in its entirety.” The judges cite several procedural errors that would have impaired Qualcomm’s rights of defence. It also calls into question the Commission’s analysis of the anti-competitive effects of the incentive payments.
The Commission did not take into account all relevant factual circumstances for its determination, so the analysis is unlawful, it said. While the payments reduced Apple’s incentives to turn to competing suppliers, there was no technological alternative to Qualcomm’s chipsets for the vast majority of its needs over the relevant period.