EU regulator monitors Apple iPad and iPhone distribution

BRUSSELS Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:56pm GMT

People queue outside an Apple store as they wait to buy the iPhone 5 in Rome September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

People queue outside an Apple store as they wait to buy the iPhone 5 in Rome September 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are looking into possible anticompetitive issues involving distribution of Apple's iPhone and its iPad tablets because of what sources said were informal complaints from several telecoms operators.

The complaints to the European Commission underscore the broader battle between the telecoms industry and content providers, such as Apple and Google, which provide new digital services that run over telecoms systems.

A Commission spokesman on Friday said that the EU competition regulators had been informed about concerns over the world's most valuable technology company and its distribution practices for iPhone and iPad.

"There have been no formal complaints, though," Antoine Colombani told a regular Commission briefing.

"Generally, we are actively monitoring developments in this market. We will, of course, intervene if there are indications of anticompetitive behaviour to the detriment of consumers."

Three people familiar with the matter said that several telecoms companies had aired their grievances to the Commission.

Their concerns focused on the commercial terms in contracts with Apple, said one of the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

"Apple insists on a certain level of subsidies and marketing for the iPhone," said the source, who declined to identify the companies that had approached the Commission.

Apple's iPhone accounts for half of its revenue.

A second source said that the companies expressed their concerns to the Commission late last year.

Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said: "Our contracts fully comply with local laws wherever we do business, including the EU."

It is not the first time Apple has come under the scrutiny of the EU antitrust regulators. The company was the target of an investigation nearly three years ago over its iPhone business practices.

It subsequently allowed cross-border repair services and eased restrictions on applications for the iPhone, which resulted in the Commission dropping its investigation.

(Additional reporting by Leila Abboud in Paris; Editing by Rex Merrifield and David Goodman)

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