Apple fined over $1Billion by French gov’t

AppleWritten by Austin Lampky

 

Following a years-long investigation, the French Competition Authority hit the Apple corporation with a whopping $1.23 billion fine on Mar. 20, 2020 

This fine – according to the International Business Times’ article “Apple News: French Regulators Hit Tech Giant With $1.2 Billion Fine for Alleged Antitrust Violations” – beats all other recorded monetary penalties  issued in the country’s history. The fine, according to the same story, was termed “an alleged violation of France’s antitrust laws.”

The New York Times also weighed in, and commented that Apple “unfairly divided products and customers between two wholesalers, Tech Data and Ingram Micro. The regulator accused Apple of making its wholesalers charge the same prices for products offered in Apple’s own retail stores and abusing its broad economic power over the firms.” CNBC said both wholesalers were also fined 76.1 million euros and 62.9 million euros, respectively.

The Kansas City Star noted that Apple defended their actions in a statement, where the corporation refuted allegations with the claim that “It’s investment and innovation supports over 240,000 jobs across the country.” Apple representatives also said, “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.” 

That sentiment seems to have fallen on deaf ears with the French Competition Authority, which responded with a statement of their own that was not very flattering to the large corporation – 

“Apple abusively exploited ‘distributors’ dependence on the tech giant, the authority wrote, and ‘prevented competition among different Apple distribution channels.’ And that, in turn, hurt consumers,” the Kansas City Star reported.

The decision to penalize Apple for anticompetitive practices comes at the same time the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 forced Apple to close many of its stores for the time being.

Aside from store closures, the International Business Times reported that “Apple CEO Tim Cook also said the company is committing $15 million ‘to help treat those who are sick and to help lessen the economic and community impacts of the pandemic.’”

For Apple, tensions in France have been boiling for some time now. Bloomberg reported in a Mar. 16 article that a 2012 lawsuit instigated the pursuance of the current case. 

That original event was a complaint issued in 2012 by eBizcuss, identified by the website “The Register” as “France’s biggest Apple reseller.” “The Register” points to the escalation starting in late 2011, with statements made by eBizcuss CEO Francois Prudent. “Prudent publicly criticized Apple for unfair business practices, saying the tech titan has starved his shops of hot product stock,” the article says. 

In addition to reaching out to France’s Anticompetition Authority with another case filing, “The Register” said, “Seventy-five of Prudent’s former employees at eBizcuss also filed individual claims against Apple in June, claiming that the company was effectively their co-employer and demanding either severance pay or new jobs.”

This is not the only recent case in France to paint Apple in a bad light. On Feb. 7, the Engadget website published an article entitled, “France Fines Apple $27 Milllion for Slowing Down iPhones.” The article explained how “France’s Competition and Fraud body, DGCCRF, [had] fined Apple 25 million euros ($27.3 million) for intentionally slowing the performance of older iPhones.” 

The article concluded that since the accusations erupted, consumers and governments were “outraged,” and the investigation in France commenced in 2018. Many people deemed this action a push to motivate consumers to purchase upgraded products. Engadget reported that, “Apple would eventually disclose the feature, but has agreed to pay the fine, and display a press release prominently on its French website.” 

The International Business Times also reported that Apple’s spokesperson indicated the company’s intent to file an appeal in lieu of France’s newly-issued fine.

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