French Antitrust Agency Fines Apple

On March 16, the French Competition Authority, an antitrust watchdog, fined Apple 1.1 billion euro ($1.2 billion) for anti-competitive practices. The fine comes after eight years of preparation by the Authority and is the largest ever processed by a French antitrust regulator.

Two of Apple’s affiliated wholesale companies were also fined: Tech Data for $76 million, and Ingram Micro for $63 million. The Authority claims, “Apple and its two wholesalers agreed not to compete with each other and to prevent distributors from competing with each other, thereby sterilizing the wholesale market for Apple products.”

The Authority claimed that “Apple committed an abuse of economic dependence on its premium retailers.” The regulators also explained their process for levying the fine, stating, “[we] deciphered the very specific practices that had been implemented by Apple for the distribution of its products in France (excluding iPhones), such as the iPad… Given the strong impact of these practices on competition in the distribution of Apple products via Apple premium resellers, [we impose] the highest penalty ever pronounced in a case.”

Apple plans to appeal the fine, claiming that it contradicts French legal precedent. “The French Competition Authority’s decision is disheartening,” writes an Apple spokesperson. “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. We strongly disagree with them and plan to appeal.”

Other antitrust regulators, like the European Commission, have investigated Apple’s business practices in the past few months. The US Congress and the Department of Justice have made similar inquiries.