Qualcomm headquarters in Mira Mesa. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Qualcomm headquarters in Mira Mesa. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The European Commission has opened two investigations into possible abuse of market dominance by San Diego-based chipmaker Qualcomm Inc., it said on Thursday, the latest in a string of antitrust and tax inquiries into major U.S. corporations.

The first investigation will examine whether Qualcomm, the market leader in chips used for voice and data transmission in smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, offered financial incentives to customers on condition that they bought exclusively or almost exclusively from Qualcomm.

The second will look at whether Qualcomm engaged in “predatory pricing” by charging at less than cost with a view to forcing competitors out of the market.

“We are launching these investigations because we want to be sure that high-tech suppliers can compete on the merits of their products,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“Many customers use electronic devices, such as a mobile phone or a tablet, and we want to ensure that they ultimately get value for money.”

Other U.S. corporations have already appeared on the EU’s radar, with antitrust investigators looking into possible market abuse by Google and the ebook business of Amazon, as well as the European tax affairs of Amazon, Apple and Starbucks.

Qualcomm said it was disappointed to hear of the new EU investigations.

“We have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with the Commission, and we continue to believe that any concerns are without merit,” it said in a statement.

Qualcomm agreed this year to pay a fine of $975 million to end a 14-month Chinese government investigation into anti-competitive practices.

Businesses that the EU finds guilty of market abuse can be fined up to 10 percent of their global earnings. There is no specific deadline for completion of investigations into anti-competitive conduct.

— Reuters