Qualcomm slapped with record antitrust fine in Taiwan

A Qualcomm sign is pictured at one of its many campus buildings in San Diego, California, US in this file photo. — Reuters

TAIPEI — Taiwanese authorities have imposed a record fine of nearly $800 million on Qualcomm for antitrust violations in the latest of a string of setbacks for the US computer chip giant.

Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission slapped Qualcomm with a fine of Tw$23.4 billion ($774 million) for harming market competition and manipulating prices following an investigation launched in 2015.

"Qualcomm's illegal actions have seriously affected the (market) competition... to ensure, maintain or enhance its dominance in the market," the commission said in a statement late Wednesday.

According to the commission, Qualcomm had violated fair trade rules for at least seven years by refusing to offer licenses that are essential for manufacturing chipsets to rival manufacturers and had imposed unfair contracts on smartphone makers.

Qualcomm earned more than $13.33 billion in royalty fees and $30 billion in baseband chip sales to local companies during that period, it added. The world's biggest handset chip supplier said Thursday it would appeal the fine.

"Qualcomm disagrees with the decision... and intends to seek to stay any required behavioral measures and appeal the decision to the Taiwanese courts," the company said in a statement.

Last year, Qualcomm was hit with a record fine exceeding $850 million by South Korea's antitrust watchdog for abusing its dominant market position as a maker of baseband chipsets used in mobile phones.

It was also fined nearly $1 billion by Chinese antitrust authorities in 2015 for violation of competition rules. In the United States, Qualcomm is locked in contentious patent battles with fellow tech giant Apple, which filed a lawsuit in January accusing the chip maker of abusing its market power to demand unfair royalties.

Apple has also joined efforts in other countries where Qualcomm faces probes from antitrust authorities. Qualcomm in turn has sued Apple for allegedly using the chipmaker's technology without paying for it. — AFP