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Qualcomm finds itself in a pickle once again

Courtroom scene

Qualcomm is upsetting regulators pretty much on a weekly basis, with the chipmaker has lost its appeal against a hefty fine for monopolistic activities.

The US giant was initially charged by the European Commission for using anti-competitive methods to essentially force British phone software maker Icera out of the market, and subsequently faced a daily fine of €580,000 for not providing enough information to the investigators. According to Reuters, Qualcomm contested the fine, on the grounds it was unreasonable, however this objection has now been slapped away.

“The applicant does not claim that its financial viability would be at risk or that its market share could be affected substantially,” said General Court President Marc Jaeger, after ruling the European Commission fine should stand.

“Furthermore, it does not give any explanation as to why it would be impossible to seek compensation for the alleged financial costs it would suffer by answering the questions.”

During the investigation, Qualcomm claimed that the European Commission was requesting an unreasonable amount of information, which would have taken up too much resource, as well as too much cash. This claim has been denied, so it won’t be long before the legal bill starts to make some serious dents in the Qualcomm bank account.

We do have some sympathy for Qualcomm, as the European Commission does seem to throw its weight around unreasonably at times, but then again, how many times can the chipmaker be accused of dodgy activities.

We are in a society where the accused in presumed innocent until proven guilty, however this is starting to get ridiculous. Qualcomm is facing numerous investigations in the European Union, including an antitrust charge of making illegal payments to a major customer for exclusively using its chipsets, it is in a prolonged battle with Apple, as well as facing charges from the FTC in the states. In the past, it has been found guilty in China and South Korea for monopolising the industry, facing hefty fines in both countries. Yet it continues to protest its innocence.

In one of my favourite films, Lucky Number Slevin, there is a brilliant quote which I believe to be quite appropriate here:

  • Slevin: Listen, I’ve been hearing that a lot lately…
  • The Rabbi: My father used to say: ‘The first time someone calls you a horse you punch him on the nose, the second time someone calls you a horse you call him a jerk but the third time someone calls you a horse, well then perhaps it’s time to go shopping for a saddle’

Qualcomm can protest its innocence for as long as it likes, but the amount of time which the chipmaker is spending in court is a difficult trend to ignore. The team better sort out its act quickly before its reputation is damaged well beyond repair.


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