2 min read.Updated: 23 Nov 2021, 07:35 PM ISTMauro Orru, The Wall Street Journal
Italy’s competition watchdog issued more than $225 million in fines to Apple and Amazon.com, saying they colluded to exclude legitimate resellers of Apple and Beats products from Amazon’s Italian marketplace
The Italian Competition Authority, or AGCM, said Tuesday that it was fining Apple 134.5 million euros ($151.1 million) and Amazon 68.7 million euros ($77.2 million), ordering the U.S. technology giants to allow all resellers of genuine Apple and Beats products on amazon.it.
The fines, the latest in a series of antitrust probes and decisions against big tech firms in Europe, stem from a 2018 agreement between Apple and Amazon that let the companies pick which resellers of Apple and Beats products were allowed on amazon.it and ban others, AGCM said.
The agreement also hindered cross-border sales as it effectively allowed Apple and Amazon to restrict the number of allowed resellers and discriminate against them on a geographical basis in breach of European Union treaties, AGCM added.
Apple and Amazon said they would appeal the decision, and defended their 2018 agreement.
“The proposed fine is disproportionate and unjustified," Amazon said in a statement. “We reject the Italian Competition Authority’s suggestion that Amazon benefits by excluding sellers from our store, since our business model relies on their success."
Amazon said that the catalogue of Apple products at least doubled on Amazon’s website as a result of the agreement, with most notable increases of product lines such as iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.
In a separate statement, Apple said it believed it had done nothing wrong, and planned to appeal the fine. “To ensure our customers purchase genuine products, we work closely with our reseller partners and have dedicated teams of experts around the world who work with law enforcement, customs and merchants to ensure only genuine Apple products are being sold," Apple said.
The Italian case comes as big tech companies face growing antitrust scrutiny in Europe, with similar probes currently under way in Spain and Germany.
Germany’s Federal Cartel Office said in June that it would look at Apple’s influence on cross-market competition in a probe that will focus on the magnitude of the company’s technological and financial resources, access to data as well as its App Store, and how it influences the business activities of third parties.
Apple is currently facing charges from the EU for allegedly abusing its control over the distribution of music-streaming apps by requiring rival apps to use Apple’s in-app payments system to sell digital content. The case stems from a complaint by Spotify Technology SA.
In July, Amazon.com was fined EUR746 million by an EU privacy regulator for violations related to its advertising, the largest-ever fine under the EU’s data-protection law.
Beats, the audio brand acquired by Apple in 2014, makes consumer headphones, earphones and speakers.