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EU antitrust regulators accuse Qualcomm of hindering rivals

[BRUSSELS] European Union antitrust regulators charged Qualcomm on Tuesday of using its market power to thwart rivals, putting the world's top maker of chipsets used in mobile devices at risk of a hefty fine.

The accusations by the European Commission set out in two charge sheets known as statements of objections followed a formal investigation begun in July.

The EU competition enforcer said Qualcomm may have illegally paid a major customer for exclusively using its chipsets and it also sold chipsets below cost with the aim of forcing a competitor out of the market in a practice known as predatory pricing. "I am concerned that Qualcomm's actions may have pushed out competitors or prevented them from competing," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Qualcomm said it has been given several months to respond to the charges. "We look forward to demonstrating that competition in the sale of wireless chips has been and remains strong and dynamic, and that Qualcomm's sales practices have always complied with European competition law," Qualcomm general counsel Don Rosenberg said in a statement.

The predatory pricing case against the company followed a complaint from British phone software maker Icera, which later was acquired by Nvidia Corp in a bid to enter the market for smartphone chips and compete with Qualcomm.