Qualcomm is now the latest US tech company under European antitrust investigation

Under scrutiny.
Under scrutiny.
Image: Reuters/Albert Gea
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In the past three months alone, Europe’s antitrust enforcer, Margether Vestager, has filed formal charges against Google, opened an investigation into Google’s Android operating system, and started an investigation into Amazon’s e-books business. Today, the Competition Commission announced two more investigations, both looking at the same tech company: Qualcomm, a California-based chip-maker that is the world’s largest supplier of chips for mobile phones.

The investigations will look at whether the firm offered “financial incentives to customers on [the] condition that they buy the baseband chipsets exclusively or almost exclusively from Qualcomm.” The second looks at whether Qualcomm practiced “predatory pricing,” or selling its goods below cost price in order to drive out competitors.

“While we were disappointed to hear this, we have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with the Commission, and we continue to believe that any concerns are without merit,” a Qualcomm spokesperson said in a statement.

Americans will undoubtedly see the investigation as yet more proof that Europe is out to get US tech companies in order to protect its own industries. In addition to antitrust investigations, Europe is also looking at the tax arrangements of Apple and Amazon, a case against Facebook is ongoing at the European Court of Justice, Faceook is facing multiple investigations across European member states, and Google is charged with anticompetitive practices. For Americans, the various troubles taken together reek of vendetta.

This is an allegation that European officials strongly deny. Andrus Ansip, Europe’s chief official on digital matters, told Quartz in an interview earlier this week that some US companies ”are much more successful here in the European Union than in the United States of America. So it is clear evidence that there is friendly environment for American companies here in the EU. These companies are very welcome here in the EU but they have to follow EU regulations. Everyone has to. American companies, European companies, Japanese companies.”

Earlier this year, Qualcomm paid a fine of $975 million to settle an antitrust case in China. It was the largest fine in China’s corporate history according to Reuters, which reported at the time that Qualcomm would not contest the finding that it violated antitrust law. America’s Federal Trade Commission is also investigating Qualcomm for violating patent license agreements.