Qualcomm scored a major win, with an EU court striking down a $1 billion fine against it and criticizing the EU Commission’s original ruling.
Lead by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, EU antitrust regulators fined Qualcomm $1 billion, alleging the company paid Apple billions of dollars in an effort to shut Intel out of the mobile chip market and ensure the Cupertino company used its chips exclusively. According to Reuters, not only did the EU’s second-highest court, the General Court, overturn the fine, it also criticized how Vestager and the Commission handled their case.
“A number of procedural irregularities affected Qualcomm’s rights of defence and invalidate the Commission’s analysis of the conduct alleged against Qualcomm,” judges said.
“The Commission did not provide an analysis which makes it possible to support the findings that the payments concerned had actually reduced Apple’s incentives to switch to Qualcomm’s competitors in order to obtain supplies of LTE chipsets for certain iPad models to be launched in 2014 and 2015,” they said.
The Commission could still appeal the decision to the EU’s highest court, the EU Court of Justice, but no decision has been made.
This isn’t the first setback for Vestager. In July 2020, EU courts upheld Apple’s Ireland tax deal, something Vestager had tried to put a stop to. Similarly, as Reuters points out, in January a court overturned a 1.06 billion euro fine against Intel for trying to squeeze AMD out of the market.
Vestager has made a name for herself as a tough, no-nonsense regulator of Big Tech. Given these setbacks, however, she may have to be more cautious and thorough in how she pursues future cases.