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As Efficient Competitor Test: An Overview of EU and National Case Law

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On 18 July 2019, the European Commission (“EC”) fined Qualcomm for abusing its market dominance by selling 3G baseband chipsets below cost, to force its competitor Icera out of the market. The EC found that Qualcomm sold three of its UMTS (a 3G standard) chipsets at predatory levels between mid-2009 and mid-2011, being dominant in the global market for UMTS chipsets in the relevant period. Qualcomm sold these chipsets, which are used in smartphones and tablets to deliver wireless connectivity, to Huawei and ZTE, two “strategically important” customers. Qualcomm targeted these customers as part of a deliberate strategy to exclude Icera, “its main rival at the time in the market segment offering advanced data rate performance”. Icera was a UK start-up and Qualcomm’s behavior took place when Icera was establishing itself as a viable alternative in this leading-edge segment. Icera was acquired by NVIDIA in May 2011, which subsequently wound down part of the business in September 2012, before exiting the market completely in 2015.