EU turns up heat on Qualcomm as Trump yells about Google fine

qualcomm EU
REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU antitrust regulators have reinforced their case against Qualcomm where the US chipmaker has been accused of selling chipsets below cost to drive out a rival.

The move came as US President Donald Trump slammed a $5 billion fine against Google, saying the European Union was taking advantage of the United States.

Qualcomm, the world’s leading chipmaker, has been in the EU crosshairs since 2015 when it was charged with predatory pricing aimed at forcing out British phone software maker Icera between 2009 and 2011. Icera was later acquired by Nvidia Corp.

Qualcomm was fined 997 million euros in a separate case in January after the European Commission said it breached EU rules by paying iPhone Apple to use only its chips in an effort to block rivals such as Intel.

The EU enforcer on Thursday said it had sent an additional charge sheet. Such documents typically strengthen regulator’s preliminary conclusions and address points raised by companies to the first charge sheet.

“The supplementary statement of objections sent today focuses on certain elements of the ‘price-cost test applied by the Commission to assess the extent to which UMTS baseband chipsets were sold by Qualcomm at prices below cost,” the Commission said, without providing details.

The move against another US tech giant came as Trump hit out at a record fine handed down to Google a day earlier for illegal business practices aimed at boosting its search engine and chrome browser on mobile devices.

“I told you so! The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google. They truly have taken advantage of the U.S., but not for long!” Trump said in a post on Twitter.

Qualcomm expressed disappointment with regulators’ decision to continue the investigation.

“While the investigation has been narrowed, we are disappointed to see it continues and will immediately begin preparing our response to this supplementary statement of objections,” Qualcomm general counsel Don Rosenberg said in a statement.

“We believe that once the Commission has reviewed our response it will find that Qualcomm’s practices are pro-competitive and fully consistent with European competition rules,” he said.

Qualcomm can face a fine up to 10% of its worldwide turnover if found guilty of breaching EU antitrust rules.

($1 = 0.8626 euros)

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek)

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