Thursday 25 February 2021 10:04 am

Brits could receive £480m payout in Qualcomm smartphone legal case

Roughly 29m Brits could be entitled to a £480m payout if a landmark legal claim against US chipmaker Qualcomm is successful. 

Consumer group Which is suing Qualcomm over claims it breached UK competition law by taking advantage of its dominance in the patent-licensing and chipset market.

The lawsuit alleges that this enabled the chipmaker to charge manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung inflated fees for technology licenses, which in turn has been passed on to consumers in the form of higher smartphone prices.

Qualcomm hit back at the accusations saying there was “no basis for this lawsuit”.

“As the plaintiffs are well aware, their claims were effectively put to rest last summer by a unanimous panel of judges at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States,” said Christine Trimble, vice president of Public Affairs.

Which is seeking damages for all affected Apple and Samsung smartphones purchased since 1 October 2015 and is seeking a collective total of £482.5m.

It estimates that individual consumers could be entitled to up to £30 in damages if the claim is successful, though it is expected that most would receive around £17.

“We believe Qualcomm’s practices are anticompetitive and have so far taken around £480m from UK consumers’ pockets – this needs to stop,” said Which chief executive Anabel Hoult.

“We are sending a clear warning that if companies like Qualcomm indulge in manipulative practices which harm consumers, Which is prepared to take action.”

Which has filed its complaint with the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which will decide whether the claim can go ahead. It has urged Qualcomm to settle the case without the need for litigation.

Qualcomm has faced a number of investigations into alleged anti-competitive behaviour around the world.

The US company has been handed fines totalling €1.2bn by the European Commission in two cases in recent years over its use of market power to shut out rivals including Intel.

It has also faced probes over anti-competitive behaviour in South Korea and Taiwan.