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Qualcomm wins court fight against $1 billion EU antitrust fine

Qualcomm Inc. won its bid to topple a 997 million-euro ($1 billion) European Union antitrust fine for allegedly pressuring Apple Inc. to only buy its 4G chips, after judges said regulators made a series of blunders in their case.

The EU General Court overturned the penalty, saying “a number of procedural irregularities” in the European Commission’s decision “affected Qualcomm’s rights of defense and invalidate” its analysis of the firm’s conduct.

The 2018 fine against the chipmaker came after years of EU scrutiny and an earlier unsuccessful probe. Qualcomm was handed a second EU penalty of 242 million euros in 2019 for deliberately pricing some chips so low they could eliminate a smaller rival. A newer probe into the company was dropped last year.

While the ruling can be appealed one more time, it’s yet another stinging defeat for the EU’s antitrust arm, which until January — in a landmark ruling involving another chip giant Intel Corp. — hadn’t lost a big competition case in court for more than 20 years.

The commission said it “will carefully study the judgment and its implications and will reflect on possible next steps.” Qualcomm said in an emailed statement that it was “pleased with the General Court’s decision.”

San Diego-based Qualcomm told the court in a hearing last year that the bloc’s probe was “biased” and allowed Apple to “dictate the evidence, narrative and conclusions.” The commission had said Apple had been cornered by Qualcomm with a 2011 deal that offered “significant” sums and rebates if it only bought the company’s chips. Bloomberg

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