Qualcomm Wins Appeal of EU $1B Antitrust Fine for Apple Payments

Qualcomm has won its appeal of a €997 million (about $1.04 billion) fine from European Union regulators over payments made to Apple to use Qualcomm chips after Europe’s General Court ruled in its favor regarding the 2018 penalty, according to The Verge Wednesday (June 15).

The EU fine stemmed from the belief that payments Qualcomm had made to Apple between 2011 and 2016 to exclusively use its chips were illegal under EU antitrust rules, the report said.

“This meant that no rival could effectively challenge Qualcomm in this market, no matter how good their products were,” said EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a statement accompanying the fine. EU regulators had said Qualcomm shut rival chipmaker Intel out of the market by making it too expensive for Apple to switch suppliers, per the report.

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The European General Court sided with Qualcomm, saying “a number of procedural irregularities affected Qualcomm’s rights of defense and invalidate the Commission’s analysis of the conduct alleged against Qualcomm,” according to a Reuters report.

“Apple had had no technical alternative to Qualcomm’s LTE chipsets for the majority of its requirements during the period concerned,” the GC ruling said, noting “the Commission failed to take account of all of the relevant factual circumstances.”

EU regulators can appeal the General Court’s decision to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU).

Read more: Apple App Tracking Rules Draw German Antitrust Scrutiny

Earlier this week, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office launched an investigation into whether Apple’s third-party app tracking rules give the tech behemoth preferential treatment or undermine competition.

The German antitrust watchdog is concerned that Apple’s rules are “self-preferencing” and stifle competition, given Apple’s ability to “unilaterally set rules for its ecosystem.” Apple’s new tracking rules, introduced in April 2021, force third-party apps to ask users’ permission before tracking their behavior in order to send them personalized ads.

Last year, the French competition watchdog opened an investigation to assess whether Apple acted as a gatekeeper when it came to third-party apps, but it concluded that the company was not abusing its dominant position.

In May, Apple continued fighting against rising criticism of its App Store policies by arguing the platform creates jobs and generates revenue.