EU questioning operators over Apple contracts

EU regulators have invited mobile networks to join an investigation into whether Apple uses anti-competitive measures to improve its share of the smartphone market.

The European Commission has written to the major operators as part of a probe into the iPhone maker’s sales tactics, following complaints from some of the networks.

Apple is understood to place much stricter demands than other handset makers on the networks that sell its phones. Some of these measures include minimum hardware orders, agreements to not offer bigger subsidies for other handsets, little or no compromise on pricing and a promise not to advertise the iPhone alongside other devices.

City A.M. understands that the complaints originated from French mobile operators, which saw trading conditions get tougher last year with the arrival of a fourth network.

“The Commission has received information from industry players concerning Apple’s distribution practices for iPhones,” a European Commission spokesperson said. “We are currently examining the situation. This does not prejudge the commission’s position on the issues raised.”

Apple cannot be said to dominate the smartphone market in Europe, enjoying just a 19.4 per cent share of sales in Europe’s five biggest countries according to data from Kantar, a market researcher.

However, the investigation piles further pressure on Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who defended the firm’s tax measures last week. Apple did not comment.