It's not over yet: Now South Korea launches Qualcomm antitrust probe

China just the beginning for mobe chipmaker's woes in Asia

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Mere days after settling its antitrust dispute with China, mobile chipmaker Qualcomm faces a new investigation into its business practices, this time in South Korea.

Perhaps sensing blood in the water, South Korea's Fair Trade Commission – the country's top antitrust regulator – has launched a probe into whether Qualcomm is abusing its dominant market position there, Reuters reports.

Until recently, US-based chipmaker faced a similar investigation from China's National Development and Reform Commission, which ruled that Qualcomm had a monopoly on mobile chips in the Middle Kingdom and was using that position to charge customers unfair and excessive fees.

Qualcomm reported that it had resolved its differences with China earlier this week after 14 months of dispute, and that in addition to allowing the NDRC to closely monitor its pricing, it would pay a fine of approximately $975m.

There was no word on what caught Korean regulators' eye this time, but this won't be the first time that Qualcomm has tussled with the Fair Trade Commission. The agency slapped the chipmaker with a record fine of more than $200m in 2009, reportedly for discriminating against customers who used local competitors' products.

In that earlier case, Qualcomm maintained that its business practices were "legal, appropriate, and competition-friendly" – but it paid the fine anyway, just as it plans to do in the China settlement.

Asian markets are crucial for Qualcomm if it wants to maintain its growth. Qualcomm builds processors, radios, and other chips for mobile phones, and South Korea is home to Samsung, the largest mobe-maker in the world.

China's population of 1.35 billion, meanwhile, is the largest potential phone market in the world – and the Chinese are increasingly buying their kit from local manufacturers like Huawei, Xiaomi, and ZTE.

Qualcomm declined to comment on the matter. ®


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