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EU Calls Out Qualcomm|on Antitrust Violations

(CN) - EU regulators believe telecom giant Qualcomm paid a major customer to use its chipsets exclusively and sold chipsets below cost to force a competitor out of the market, the European Commission said Tuesday.

The EU's administrative and regulatory arm began investigating San Diego-based Qualcomm for antitrust violations earlier this year, launching two separate probes into the company's dealings in the baseband chipset market.

Baseband chipsets process communications functions in smartphones, tablets and other mobile broadband devices. Qualcomm is the world's largest supplier of the chipsets, the commission said.

On Tuesday, regulators informed Qualcomm of its preliminary findings, called statements of objections. One statement outlines the commission's view that the company abused its dominant market position by predatory pricing between 2009 and 2011 to drive a competitor - Icera - out of the market.

Nvidia acquired Icera in 2011 for $367 million.

In the second statement, the commission said it has found that Qualcomm paid "significant amounts to a major smartphone and tablet manufacturer" on condition that the manufacturer use only Qualcomm chipsets in its products. The exclusivity contract remains in place to this day, the commission said.

Both actions harm competition and innovation in the chipset market and violate EU antitrust laws, the commission said.

Qualcomm now has an opportunity to examine the commission's investigation files and answer to the accusations either in writing or by requesting a hearing, the commission said.

The company reported revenue of $25.3 billion in its 2015 fiscal year, down $1.2 billion from 2014.

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