A French anti-trust regulatory body has issued a record $1.23 billion fine to Apple.
The Autorité de la Concurrence determined that Apple illegally restricted wholesalers. Apple engaged in price-fixing by restricting how low wholesalers could sell their products. That’s something we’ve seen in the music industry, too. British watchdogs in January fined Fender $6 million for the same practice.
The French regulatory body launched its investigation in 2012. French wholesaler eBizcuss.com issued a complaint about Apple’s practices, shortly before going out of business. The French body says this $1.23 billion fine is the highest fine it has ever given to a company. Here’s why.
Apple engaged in multiple practices to undermine competitors. First, it arranged an agreement between two wholesalers not to compete with each other. Then it stopped premium resellers from being able to drop their prices below a certain threshold.
That means identical prices across the board for Apple products, no matter which retailer you shop. The final complaint alleges that Apple purposefully limited premium reseller supply compared to their own stores. Regulators say the practices affected products like the iPad and not the iPhone.
Apple says it is “disheartened” by the fine it faces in France. In a statement, the company says the practices are no longer in use and it plans to appeal the ruling.
“It relates to practices from over a decade ago and discards thirty years of legal precedent that all companies in France rely on with an order that will cause chaos for companies across all industries,” Apple said in a statement.
But the Apple France fine isn’t the only investigation into the company’s anti-competitive practices. Apple is also facing investigation for a deal between Apple and Amazon that made it harder for small resellers. The FTC announced in August 2019 that it is investigating that arrangement.
In February 2020, Apple was fined $27 million in France for the intentional slowdown of older iPhones.