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Apple’s record Euro 1.1 billion French antitrust fine slashed by 66 per cent

Apple won a €728 million-euro ($715 million) reduction to the record €1.1 billion penalty it was hit with in 2020 for anti-competitive agreements with two favored distributors.

Apple, Apple EU fine, Apple EU fine reducedApple accused French regulators of bending antitrust rules “for political objectives” when they doled out the record-breaking fine. (Image source: Reuters)

Apple Inc won a €728 million-euro ($715 million) reduction to the record €1.1 billion penalty it was hit with in 2020 for anti-competitive agreements with two favored distributors.

The Paris court of appeals reduced Apple’s total fine on Thursday to about €371.6 million after judges decided to trim the duration of one of the infringements and lower the increases applied to the penalty that took into account the firm’s economic power.

“The 90% multiple is disproportionate,” the court said in its ruling. “A 50% multiple is sufficient to guarantee that the penalties are repressive and dissuasive.”

France’s competition arm has kept a close eye on Silicon Valley firm in recent years. Last year, Google was fined €500 million for failing to follow an order to thrash out fair deals with news publishers. The California tech giant then settled on the substance of that case to avoid further fines but had previously received hefty penalties in separate cases. Meta similarly clinched an agreement earlier this year to steer clear of fines after making pledges concerning the online advertising market.

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More broadly, regulators across Europe have been battling to rein in the dominance of Big Tech through a combination of fines and regulatory actions. The firms have shown they are willing to appeal the decisions, drawing out costly investigations for years.

Apple said it plans to file another appeal at France’s top court to bring the penalty down to zero. “We believe it should be overturned in full,” it said in a statement.

The French antitrust agency, Autorite de la concurrence, said it’s considering lodging its own appeal.

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“We would like to reaffirm our desire to guarantee the dissuasive nature of our penalties, especially when it concerns market players of the caliber of” Silicon Valley firms, said Virginie Guin, an official at the Autorite.

At a hearing last year in the appellate case, Apple accused French regulators of bending antitrust rules “for political objectives” when they doled out the record-breaking fine as part of a campaign to crack down on tech giant dominance.

When it dished out the fine in 2020, the French agency said Apple conspired with two wholesalers — Tech Data and Ingram Micro — in a move that thwarted wholesale competition for non-iPhone products such as Apple Mac computers. The duo were also slapped with fines of €76.1 million and €63 million.

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Tech Data’s fine was reduced to about €25 million and Ingram Micro’s penalty was cut to €19.5 million. Tech Data, which merged last year with Synnex Corp., “is pleased that the court took the company’s arguments into account in this ruling, but we will carefully analyze the decision to determine any potential next steps,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. Representatives for Ingram Micro didn’t respond to a request for comment.

First published on: 07-10-2022 at 04:09:13 pm
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