This week, Qualcomm successfully appealed a €997 million ($1000 billion) fine imposed by European Union regulators in 2019. The fine was originally imposed after the European Union Commission ruled that between 2011 and In 2016, the chipmaker paid Apple billions of dollars to use its chips in all of its iPhones and iPads, an act that violates EU antitrust laws.

The decision to annul the fine came after Europe's second highest court, the General Court, ruled that "a series of procedural irregularities affected Qualcomm's rights of defence," ultimately invalidating the fine, according to the analysis of the Commission.

The ruling was also highly critical of key aspects of the Commission's Legal Service process, including that meetings with third parties were not recorded or that the meeting notes were too general for Qualcomm to properly understand the complaints made against them.

Matter of concern?

Zach Meyers, a senior fellow at the Center for European Reform, said the findings could raise fears within the Commission's legal service that these problems were endemic at the time, making further Commission decisions likely to be appealed.

This is the second big loss for the Commission on the rebates and incentives issue, after the CJEU annulled a €XNUMXbn antitrust fine against Intel in February.

Meyers said there could be worse things ahead for the Commission, noting that in a few months the CJEU is expected to rule on the Google Android case, which investigated whether Google provided incentives or imposed requirements on phone makers to pre-install Google. apps and search capabilities on Android phones.

"The Qualcomm and Intel lawsuits suggest that the court will critically assess the Commission's analysis," Meyers said.

Given that there are now several occasions where the court has examined how the Commission assessed whether discounts were anti-competitive, this indicates that the court is concerned about the Commission's general approach to discounts.

Myers explained that placing a heavy burden on the Commission to properly analyze the effects of rebates on competition, a data- and labor-intensive process, could lead the Commission to stray from future rebates cases and focus more in cases of misuse. which falls within the scope of the new Digital Markets Law.

“There is a lot of potential harm if the Commission wrongly condemns rebates and rebates as anti-competitive,” he said.

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