A French antitrust agency has fined Apple and two of its distributors, Tech Data and Ingram Micro, a total of $US1.38 billion while accusing the companies of anti-competitive practices around pricing.
The French Competition Authority accuses the companies of agreeing to stick to the same pricing for Apple products other than the iPhone, such as the iPad, between 2005 and 2013--ultimately causing prices for many Apple products to be the same whether sold by a reseller or by Apple itself.
"Apple and its two wholesalers agreed not to compete and prevent distributors from competing with each other, thereby sterilizing the wholesale market for Apple products," the French Competition Authority said in a news release.
The agency accused Apple of being guilty of cartels within its distribution network, and also of abusing the economic dependence of its resellers. The agency also accused Tech Data and Ingram Micro of taking part in cartel practices.
The French Competition Authority said the $US1.38 billion fine is its highest ever in a case. The agency fined Apple $US1.23 billion, while Tech Data has been fined $US84.8 million and Ingram Micro fined $US70.2 million.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
In a news release responding to the French agency's decision, Ingram Micro said it plans to "vigorously contest" the decision.
"Ingram Micro is absolutely disappointed with the decision of the French Competition Authority to uphold one of the grievances raised against it by the investigation services," the distributor said.
The French Competition Authority "penalized Ingram Micro excessively because of so-called restricted practices towards its resellers, which they claim have a negative impact on consumers in France. These claims are absolutely false," Ingram Micro said. "The IT distribution market in France, and in particular the distribution of Apple products, is extremely competitive for IT distributors ... Ingram Micro has fully complied with the applicable laws in this particular case and intends to vigorously contest this decision to the French judiciary."
In a statement provided to CRN, Tech Data said it "is aware of the decision by the French Competition Authority resulting from an antitrust investigation regarding the distribution of Apple products (excluding the iPhone) in France between 2005 and 2013."
"The investigation started in 2013 and was previously disclosed by Tech Data in filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). We are determining how we will respond and therefore do not plan to provide additional comment at this time, as this is a pending legal matter," Tech Data said in the statement.