Qualcomm is latest US tech firm to face antitrust troubles in Europe

Qualcomm is latest US tech firm to face antitrust troubles in Europe
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Qualcomm became the latest American company to face antitrust troubles in Europe on Tuesday.

Regulators sent formal documents to Qualcomm outlining concerns that the company paid a customer to only use its chips for mobile devices and that it seperately sold chips at reduced prices in an attempt to force out a competitor. Those concerns were outlined in two statements of objection sent to the company.

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“Many consumers enjoy high-speed internet on smartphones and other devices — baseband chipsets are key components that make this happen,” said European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “I am concerned that Qualcomm's actions may have pushed out competitors or prevented them from competing.”

Vestager’s office says that Qualcomm has had an unnamed smartphone manufacturer since 2011 with the understanding that the company would only use Qualcomm chipsets in its devices. It also says that the chipmaker sold its product at below-market rates between 2009 and 2011 in an attempt to push out rival Icera.

“We look forward to demonstrating that competition in the sale of wireless chips has been and remains strong and dynamic, and that Qualcomm’s sales practices have always complied with European competition law,” said Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s general counsel.

The company has several months to reply to the charges.

The charges are the latest example of European regulators cracking down on American companies.

Vestager’s commission is engaged is a closely watched battle with Google over allegations the company prioritized results from its own comparison shopping service over those of competitors in search results. Google denies that its behavior has had a negative effect on competition.

European regulators are also probing Amazon and Apple, among other tech giants.

But Vestager has denied the existence of anti-American bias in her office’s investigations.

“As I said, the nationality of a company is a nonrelevant fact,” she said in October. “Nonetheless, some claim that when our casework involves giants like Apple or Google, [it] is an evidence of bias. But this is a fallacy.”