Apple and Amazon have once again got into trouble with regulators in Europe. The US tech giants, who have been in constant tussle with watchdogs around the world, over antitrust practices were handed more than €200 million ($225 million) in fines by Italy’s antitrust authority.
The fine was for alleged anti-competitive cooperation in the sale of Apple and Beats products. The duo was caught cooperating to narrow the number of sellers allowed to sell some products in Amazon, which according to the watchdog, violates European Union’s anti-competition rules.
“Contractual provisions of a 2018 agreement between the companies meant only selected resellers were allowed to sell Apple and Beats products on Amazon.it,” the watchdog said, adding that this was in violation of European Union rules and affected competition on prices.
The authority imposed a fine of 68.7 million euros on Amazon and 134.5 million euros on Apple, ordering the companies to end the restrictions to give retailers of genuine Apple and Beats products access to Amazon.it in a non-discriminatory manner.
Both Apple and Amazon denied any wrongdoing and said they plan to appeal against the fines, a response they had given in past cases.
“To ensure our customers purchase genuine products, we work closely with our reseller partners and have dedicated teams of experts around the world who work with law enforcement, customs and merchants to ensure only genuine Apple products are being sold,” Apple said in response to the fine.
Amazon also, reacting to fine, called it “disproportionate and unjustified”, saying it strongly disagreed with the decision of the Italian authority.
“We reject the suggestion that Amazon benefits by excluding sellers from our store, since our business model relies on their success. As a result of the agreement, Italian customers can find the latest Apple and Beats products on our store, benefiting from a catalogue that more than doubled, with better deals and faster shipping,” Amazon said.
Europe has been gearing up to confront the excesses of tech companies, amending its antitrust rules to accommodate new developments in the tech industry.
In July, Amazon was handed a record-breaking €746 million (roughly $887 million) fine under the EU signature privacy law, known as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Officials in Europe and the UK have increasingly been scrutinizing the business practices of the companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google amid allegations they have harmed competition and abused consumer privacy.
US companies have been largely at the receiving end of new GDPR rules, receiving record-breaking penalties each at a time. With each fine, European regulators seem more determined to zero in on the Big Tech, while the tech giants appear more determined to contest it. It is going to be a long faceoff.