EC sends nine-page questionnaire ahead of possible antitrust investigation into distributior agreements
The European Commission (EC) has reportedly sent a questionnaire to European mobile operators to see whether Apple’s iPhone distribution deals breach EU antitrust rules.
It was reported earlier this year that some operators, believed to be mainly French, had made informal complaints to the EC that Apple’s strict carrier contracts were designed to be anticompetitive.
It has been suggested that these contracts, often secured with non-disclosure agreements, apparently include quotas of iPhones that operators must sell. If they do not achieve these sales goals, they must then pay Apple for unsold handsets.
EU iPhone investigation
Operators agree to these terms as they wouldn’t dare miss out on the business they would lose if they didn’t stock the iPhone. However, the likelihood of them missing a quota is unlikely as demand often outstrips supply in just about every market it is sold.
The nine-page questionnaire tells operators the EC has information indicating Apple and some mobile operators may have worked together to potentially force other smartphone manufacturers out of the market.
Operators are also asked whether Apple required them to purchase a minimum volume of units, to provide preferential treatment to the marketing of the iPhone, or ensured Apple received the same or better terms as those given to the manufacturer’s rivals.
The EC also wants to know whether the agreements prevent operators from allowing customers to use the iPhone 5 on their 4G network. The responses will help the EC determine whether there are sufficient grounds for a formal investigation into Apple’s arrangements or whether to reject the complaints. The deadline for submissions is 17 June.
Apple has previously stated all of its carrier agreements comply with local laws.
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