Taiwan fines Qualcomm $773m for antitrust violations
This time it’s Taiwan, where its Fair Trade Commission (TFTC) has concluded that Qualcomm abused its dominant position in the mobile chip market for at least seven years by refusing to provide products to companies that didn’t agree with its conditions.
The ruling itself is currently only published in Taiwanese, so the specifics are sketchy, but it looks like Qualcomm’s dominance is being used against it.
This is part of a growing number of legal actions against Qualcomm for similar reasons. At the end of last year, South Korea fined Qualcomm $850 million for very similar reasons.
Europe is still in the process of investigating the company, the implications of which could be far greater, and Apple is putting its considerable resources into attacking the entire premise behind Qualcomm’s licensing business model.
As with many tech-related antitrust actions, it’s clear that once a company achieves a certain level of market dominance a different set of rules apply to its behaviour. Terms and conditions that would be considered acceptable in a more competitive environment are considered illegal when used by a company that is considered to be dictating the market.
Qualcomm hadn’t returned a request for comment at time of writing but it’s reasonable to assume it will appeal the $773 million fine.
The even bigger issue at stake for Qualcomm is not just the growing cost of these fines but its very way of doing business. The licensing model means that Qualcomm doesn’t just get revenue from selling its chips (mainly modems), but also a fee for every product sold that contains them. There is a growing movement opposing that model which must have Qualcomm very concerned.
UPDATE – Qualcomm issued a press release as its response:
Qualcomm disagrees with the decision summarised in the TFTC’s press release and intends to seek to stay any required behavioural measures and appeal the decision to the Taiwanese courts after receiving the TFTC’s formal decision, which is expected in the next several weeks.
The fine bears no rational relationship to the amount of Qualcomm’s revenues or activities in Taiwan, and Qualcomm will appeal the amount of the fine and the method used to calculate it.