The European Commission is investigating whether Apple is using anti-competitive iPhone sales tactics and technical restrictions to squeeze out rival smartphone makers from the European market, according to documents seen by the Financial Times (registration required).
A questionnaire sent last week to several European mobile carriers indicates that the Commission is looking into the distribution terms that might favour the US company by ensuring no rival manufacturer can secure a better sales deal, said the newspaper. Apple said its contracts comply with EU laws, the report stated.
Is Apple using unlawful tactics for the iPhone?
“The Commission has information indicating that Apple and Mobile Network Operators have concluded distribution agreements which may potentially lead to the foreclosure of other smartphone manufacturers from the markets,” the questionnaire says.
The inquiry stemmed from private complaints by mobile operators and the fact that the questionnaire is being sent out now means it's still in a preliminary stage. The questionnaire asks whether the Cupertino company is putting pressure on telecom groups and carriers to buy a minimum number of iPhones. It also asks whether there are any restrictions on the use of marketing budgets in relation to iPhones. Other questions delve into clauses in agreements with Apple, which ensure that the company is always equal subsidies and sales terms as OEMs and their smartphones. The questionnaire also asks whether there are any technical or contractual restrictions placed on the iPhone 5, which don’t allow it to be used with 4G networks in Europe.
A formal probe into Apple's practices can only begin once it has been established that Apple was dominant in the EU smartphone market, which may prove hard considering Samsung's stranglehold on the market.
With inputs from Reuters
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