The Italian Competition Authority has sanctioned the companies of the Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. groups for a total of over 200 million euros. The two companies were sanctioned for having put in place a restrictive agreement that did not allow everyone legitimate resellers of “genuine” Apple and Beats products to operate on the Amazon marketplace.
The Antitrust Authority concluded, on November 16, 2021, the investigation launched against the two companies regarding the restrictions on access to the Amazon.it marketplace by legitimate retailers of “genuine” Apple and Beats branded products. The investigation – explains a note – made it possible to ascertain that certain contractual clauses of an agreement signed on 31 October 2018 – which prohibited official and unofficial retailers of Apple and Beats products from using Amazon.it, allowing the sale of products Apple and Beats on the marketplace only to Amazon and to certain individuals chosen individually and in a discriminatory way – they violate art. 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
In fact, in the investigation it was ascertained, writes the Authority, “the desire to introduce a purely quantitative restriction on the number of retailers, allowing only Amazon and certain subjects, identified in a discriminatory way, to operate on Amazon.it. The terms of the agreement also restricted cross-border sales, as retailers were discriminated against on a geographic basis. The restrictions of the agreement have affected the level of discounts offered by third parties on Amazon.it, decreasing their size “.
The restrictiveness of these conducts appears confirmed by the fact that Amazon.it represents the place of electronic commerce where at least 70% of purchases of consumer electronics products in Italy are made, of which at least 40% are represented by retailers who use Amazon. as a brokerage platform. It therefore appears essential that the application of competition rules ensure a level playing field for all retailers who use marketplaces as an increasingly important place for carrying out their commercial activity, especially in today’s context, avoiding the implementation of discriminatory behaviors that restrict the competition. In this perspective, the Authority’s decision recognizes, in line with the jurisprudence of the EU Court of Justice, the need for distribution systems, in order to be compatible with competition rules, to be based on qualitative criteria, not discriminatory and applied equally to all potential resellers.
The Authority was the leader in this action and, thanks to its intervention and collaboration, the national competition authorities of Germany and Spain subsequently initiated similar proceedings. The Authority therefore imposed a penalty of 68.7 million euros on the companies of the Amazon group and a penalty of 134.5 million euros on the companies of the Apple group and ordered these companies to end the restrictions, allowing the access to Amazon.co.uk to resellers of “genuine” Apple and Beats products in a non-discriminatory manner.
Apple’s response is immediate and prepares to appeal against the sanction because it believes it has done “nothing wrong”.