What you need to know
- Apple and Amazon are under investigation in Italy.
- Authorities are investigating whether Apple and Amazon used sales tactics to quash competition.
- The investigation will run until November of 2021.
An Italian investigation into shady sales tactics allegedly employed by Amazon and Apple will not conclude until November of 2021.
As noted by setteBIT on Twitter, an investigation into a 2018 agreement will run until 30 November 2021.
New details were shared regarding the investigation in a bulletin update which notes the procedure must be completed by 30 November 2021. Regarding the specific allegations, the document notes that in February 2019 an electronic product retailer on Amazon was told that their products were being removed from the marketplace "in execution of a commercial agreement that would have occurred between the Apple and Amazon groups in 2018" because they did not belong to the Apple authorized dealer program.
The specific disputed conduct reported consists of "a commercial agreement between the Amazon and Apple groups, under which the sale of Apple and Beats products on the marketplace Amazon would be entrusted exclusively to Amazon and other official retailers, excluding the other economic operators who legitimately lend the sale of these products."
This would create a significant barrier to unofficial resellers trying to sell Apple and Beats products even if they had purchased them through Apple wholesale channels. The document notes that such an agreement is even more serious in the current market context, where e-commerce and online shopping have become fundamental to retail due to COVID-19. In conclusion, it states:
In conclusion, the contractual restrictions on the sale on marketplace Amazon would seem to configure a violation of art. 101 of the TFEU, as they are capable of unjustifiably limiting the possibility for retailers who do not join Apple's official distribution program to access the brokerage services offered by Amazon and, through this, to reach a substantial and diverse part of customers. Furthermore, as already noted, these same restrictions could limit the incentives to compete effectively on the price of Apple and Beats products, as well as hinder the integration of European markets and limit parallel trade.
Both Apple and Amazon will have the opportunity to legally defend themselves as part of the process.