The Commission intends to impose interim measures during the investigation with regard to TV and modem chipsets markets.
Earlier this year press reports suggested US authorities are broadening their own antitrust probe of the company. The FTC opened its investigation into Broadcom back in January 2018.
Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: “TV set-top boxes and modems are part of our daily lives, for both work and for leisure. We suspect that Broadcom, a major supplier of components for these devices, has put in place contractual restrictions to exclude its competitors from the market. This would prevent Broadcom’s customers and, ultimately, final consumers from reaping the benefits of choice and innovation. We also intend to order Broadcom to halt its behaviour while our investigation proceeds, to avoid any risk of serious and irreparable harm to competition.”
The Commission said it has gathered information indicating that Broadcom may be implementing a range of exclusionary practices in relation to these products.
In parallel, the Commission has also issued a Statement of Objections seeking to impose interim measures. This sets out the preliminary conclusions of the Commission’s investigation, which are that:
– Broadcom is likely to hold a dominant position in various markets for the supply of systems-on-a-chip for TV set-top boxes and modems.
– certain agreements between Broadcom and seven of its main customers manufacturing TV set-top boxes and modems contain exclusivity provisions that may result in those customers purchasing systems-on-a-chip, front-end chips and WiFi chipsets exclusively or almost exclusively from Broadcom.
– the provisions contained in these agreements may affect competition and stifle innovation in these markets, to the detriment of consumers.
The Statement of Objections preliminarily concludes that an interim measures decision may be indispensable in this case, to ensure the effectiveness of any final decision taken by the Commission at a later date.
The Commission can impose interim measures on companies that are suspected of engaging in anti-competitive practices in cases where a final decision on substance has not been reached yet. In this way, the Commission can avoid that the suspected anti-competitive behaviour damages the market irreparably before it has had time to sanction such behaviour. Interim measures can only be granted if a company’s behaviour constitutes at first sight an infringement of competition rules and if there is a risk of serious and irreparable harm to competition.
In this case, the Commission found that the alleged competition concerns were of a serious nature and that Broadcom’s conduct may result in the elimination or marginalisation of competitors before the end of proceedings. The envisaged interim measures would therefore apply until the Commission concludes its assessment on the substance of the case.
The Commission will now carry out its investigation as a matter of priority.
The opening of a formal investigation and the issuance of a Statement of Objections on interim measures do not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.