Apple has been fined a record €1.1bn (£990m) by antitrust regulators in France for engaging in anti-competitive agreements with two wholesalers. The penalty imposed on the US tech giant is the largest ever handed out to a company by the Autorité de la Concurrence.
It is the biggest fine ever imposed by the French regulator. The firm and two of its wholesalers in France were found to have an unfair agreement to control prices.
The investigation began in 2012, following a complaint by eBizcuss, which sells Apple products like as an Apple Premium Reseller.
The authority’s chief Isabelle de Silva said: “Apple abusively exploited the economic dependence of these premium resellers on it and imposed unfair economic conditions on them that were worse than those for its integrated network of retailers”. Apple says it profoundly disagrees with the ruling and is appealing against it.
The watchdog said Apple had conspired with the two wholesalers, Tech Data and Ingram Micro, and behaved in such a way that aligned prices and limited wholesale competition for Apple products such as Apple Mac computers and iPads, but not iPhones.
When new products were launched, Apple favored certain wholesalers by giving them more stock, while others found themselves without enough to satisfy customer demand. “This weakened certain companies, and in some cases, like that of reseller eBizcuss, contributed them leaving the market,” the competition regulator said.
The other two French companies were also fined. Tech Data was handed a €76m penalty and Ingram Micro was ordered to pay €63m.
The regulator alleged that Apple favored certain wholesalers more than others, allocating them more stock when new products were launched, leaving others with insufficient stock to meet customer demand.
The Apple penalty is the latest move on Silicon Valley by the French competition regulator, which fined Google €150m last year for setting “opaque” rules for its Google Ads advertising platform that were allegedly applied unfairly and randomly.
It also comes as the tax arrangements of US tech firms are coming under greater scrutiny from the European Union.