French Regulator Raids Offices of Apple and Affiliates

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PARIS -- Authorities searched the French offices of Apple and some affiliated companies as part of an investigation into retailing practices, a spokesman for the French competition regulator said on Tuesday.

The raids took place last week on "some of Apple's premises in France, as well as those of some of its wholesalers and distributors," said André Piérard, a spokesman for the regulator, the Competition Authority.

Mr. Piérard said the investigation was done by competition officials accompanied by judicial police officers. Authorities seized documents in the raids.

Apple is known for maintaining strict controls over its product image and marketing, extending those efforts to its highly profitable stores. But its leading market position has prompted scrutiny in Europe and elsewhere. European regulators, for example, have been examining Apple's contracts with the cellphone carriers that sell its iPhone for possible antitrust violations.

The news of the investigation in France was first reported Monday by Les Échos, a financial newspaper. The article said the investigators were interested in Apple's relations with its distributors.

The article cited the case of eBizcuss, an Apple premium reseller that operated about 15 stores until it collapsed last year. The eBizcuss chief executive, François Prudent, accused Apple of abusing its market dominance and of unfair competition, contending that the company had opened Apple stores around the country while starving its other authorized retailers of popular products like the newest iPads and iPhones. Mr. Prudent filed a complaint with the regulator.

According to Les Échos, the competition authorities want to know if Apple ordered its wholesalers, with which the distributors like eBizcuss were in almost daily contact, not to deliver the products on time. Les Échos reported that Mr. Piérard also said that the competition authorities were investigating Apple and other Internet companies on suspicion of abuse of market dominance with their online app stores.

Mr. Piérard declined to comment on the newspaper report. Josh Rosenstock, an Apple spokesman in London, also declined to comment.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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