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Qualcomm could be forced to pay UK smartphone owners £480m

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Which? has accused Qualcomm of abusing its dominance in the patent-licensing and chipset markets and believes that around 29 million Britons could be entitled to a payout totalling more than £480m.

Specifically, anyone who has purchased a 4G smartphone featuring one of its chips since October 2015 could be entitled.

Qualcomm is one of the largest mobile chipset makers in the world and it makes the SOCs that power most Android smartphones in the West as well as providing 5G chips for iPhones.

Which? believes the firm has breached UK competition law by taking advantage of its market dominance to charge manufacturers like Apple and Samsung inflated fees for technology licences.

These fees have then been passed on to consumers in the form of higher smartphone prices.

Which? said it was seeking damages for all affected Apple and Samsung smartphones purchased since 1 October 2015 and estimates that individual consumers could be due up to £30 depending on the number and type of smartphones purchased during that period. It expects that most consumers would receive around £17.

Qualcomm has already been found liable by regulators and courts around the world for similar anti-competitive behaviour, but Which? has urged Qualcomm to settle this claim without the need for litigation.

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

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

“If Qualcomm has abused its market power it must be held to account.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 included a clause enabling an “opt-out collective action regime” that makes it much easier for individuals to be legally represented in cases like this.

Which? is using this regime to represent consumers as it believes large numbers of people have been harmed by anti-competitive conduct.

Qualcomm has previously been investigated by competition authorities in the US, Canada, and the European Union.

In response to Which? Christine Trimble, Qualcomm's VP of Public Affairs, said: “There is 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.”

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