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]