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French reseller sues Apple, claiming unfair competition

updated 04:00 am EST, Fri December 30, 2011

Favors its own stores on inventory, more

The largest independent Apple retailer in France has sued the company, alleging that Apple actively engages in practices that undermine and undercut resellers while favoring its own retail stores. The complaint, which was originally reported in the French newspaper Le Figaro (and picked up by ifoAppleStore) is similar to other court cases filed against Apple be resellers in the US and other countries.

The CEO of eBizcuss, François Prudent, charges that his own company suffered a 30 percent decline in business across his 16 French locations due to a severe shortage of MacBook Airs and iPad2s. He added that during the last quarter of the year, eBizcuss could not get any iPhone 4S units at all.

Prudent adds that Apple was poaching customers from the shop and undercutting bids on contracts with business clients, offering prices that were lower than what eBizcuss paid. Prudent was one of the first French importers of Apple products, beginning with the Apple II in 1977.

This is despite eBizcuss' attempts to comply with Apple requests, such as upgrading its point-of-sale system and making all retail spaces more compliant with Apple's desire for a "showcase" retail experience, demands it also makes of its US reseller partners and others. The deliberate pattern of withholding products, Prudent says, began immediately upon Apple opening its own retail stores, starting with the Carousel del Louvre in Paris back in late 2009. He claims eBizcuss has spent more than $6.5 million on improvements to its stores since 2007 in order to keep relations with Apple cordial.

Similar stories have been heard in lawsuits filed by resellers over the past decade. Apple was sued by some San Francisco and northern California dealers in 2003 charging that Apple retail stores received priority and that independent dealers had merchandise withheld or kept in tight supply, along with denials of warranty reimbursements. One of the dealers who sued, Tom Santos of MacAdam, eventually closed its doors after 16 years and the case was ultimately dismissed.

A group of Bay-area Mac dealers sued again in 2005 as part of a class-action lawsuit with consumers. Another dealer, MacSolutions, sued for similar reasons in early 2006 and eventually reached a settlement with the company. In 2008, a Scottish independent dealer also claimed it was unable to compete with a recently-opened Apple retail store due to product shortages and also went under.

Apple store employees have since 2004 been instructed to remain "neutral" when mentioning any alternative outlets for Apple equipment, which includes "big box" chain stores, mail-order and online sites, education and government purchase programs and other options. [via ifoAppleStore]




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. bleee

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +5

    While I am an Apple fan...

    I also think that Apple has actively snuffed out its retail partners, even though those same exact retail partners helped keep Apple alive during the dark days. (pre-iPod popularity)

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +2

    Agree with bleee

    Apple has definitely demoted their retail "partners" in the Apple Store era. Because, frankly, Apple doesn't need retail partners any more. Apple customers can first try out Apple products at Apple Stores, then later get support at the Genius Bar, attend workshops, accessorize, etc.

    And those that don't need all that hand-holding can simply order online from Apple or other e-tailers. Precious little need for "pegboard, commissioned hard-sell sales people, and bad carpet" physical retail partners.

  1. chas_m

    Moderator

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Well ...

    While I also agree with bleee, there are still plenty of places that don't have a nearby Apple Store. I live in a capital city of over 300,000 and we're certainly never getting one (we have more than five thriving indies however).

    So the indies have their place, but Apple needs an attitude adjustment about the service these guys perform. More working together to improve the experience for customers, less fighting. But yeah, if there's more than one Apple Retail store in your town and you're an indie Mac dealer, time to either hang it up or move to someplace where Apple isn't going to open a store.

  1. ElectroTech

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +2

    Resellers reap what they sow

    For years these resellers have had the market under their control and held Apple back, given poor service and wasted their businesses. Steve Jobs had to show them how to run a retail store and make insane profits per spare meter of floor space. These resellers wouldn't do that on their own and now that Apple is eating their lunch, they have the gall to complain ?

  1. fashizzle

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +4

    "Reap what they sow?!!1"

    ElectroTech, you are very wrong on many, many levels. The reseller channel is what built, maintained and sustained the platform for DECADES. Sure, some sucked more than others, and others were incredible (Apple Specialists get the nod), but for most people this was where the Apple experience existed. Period. I am confident that you are too young to have existed in a time without your precious Apple Store. Overnight these businesses were crippled when Apple opened that single store in Virginia, that fateful day. From inventory debacles to unfair treatment and practices direct from the mothership, even the great Apple Dealers were squeezed to the point of closure. You have no idea what you are talking about, kid.

  1. jarod

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Tough!

    These 3rd party resellers have been nothing but a horrendous experience. I'm so happy Apple Retail came in... these 3rd party losers should have been wiped out a long time ago. They suck and staff the dumbest human beings on the planet!

  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    @bleee


    That's Apple for ya. Biting the hand(s) that feed it.

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