The European Commission has handed down a €997 million (around £873 million) fine to chip giant Qualcomm for what it claims was clear abuse of its dominant position in the mobile baseband market, following a complaint filed by Apple.
According to the Commission, a 2011 deal saw Qualcomm agree to "significant" payments for its chips to be used exclusively within the Apple devices.
Competition Commissioner Margrethe VestagersaidQualcomm had "illegally shut out rivals" from the market for more than five years.
Not only is the chip maker being sued by Apple and investigated by the FTC over in the United States, but the European Commission had also launched its own anti-competition probe into Qualcomm.
As yet there is no official statement from Qualcomm or apple. It also meant Apple would have to repay all of Qualcomm's money if it made a decision to give its business to a rival.
Citing internal documents, it said Apple had given serious consideration to switching part of its baseband chipset requirements to Intel but the exclusivity condition was a material factor as to why Apple decided against doing so. This deal was extended in 2013 and ended at the end of 2016. They were also denied business opportunities with other customers that could have followed from securing Apple as a customer.
The level of the fine, which amounts to 4.9 percent of Qualcomm's turnover in 2017, "takes account of the duration and gravity of the infringement, and is aimed at deterring market players from engaging in such anti-competitive practices in the future", the commission said.
While market dominance by itself doesn't violate European Union antitrust rules, the commission said that dominant companies "have a special responsibility not to abuse their powerful market position by restricting competition".
Ironically, Apple and Qualcomm are engaged in a legal battle after Apple sued Qualcomm for just under $1bn for allegedly withholding patent royalty rebates. "Competition in this market is now on the up", Vestager said.
Qualcomm says it will appeal against the decision as the verdict 'does not relate to Qualcomm's licensing business and has no impact on ongoing operations'.
"We have a strong case for judicial review and we will immediately commence that process", Rosenberg added.
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