Apple is facing a lawsuit in France over its retail practices, which reseller partner eBizcuss is claiming are unfair, and that case will be monitored closely by other resellers on the continent, a new report says. Still, others say this is just business as usual for Apple and that the French case won’t change that.
Channelweb reports that the case has piqued the interest of Apple Premium Resellers in the UK who have run into similar situations to the one described by eBizcuss, according to Robert Peckham, an Apple consultant and the founder of the Mac Technology association, an industry group for UK Apple dealers and resellers. The French reseller is claiming that Apple unfairly favors its own retail channels with new stock and that it undercuts the prices third-party providers are able to offer small business customers.
Because eBizcuss is the largest Apple reseller in France, Peckham says that the action will be “difficult to ignore” for Apple and that it could prompt others to join forces and attempt “a pan-European class action,” according to what he has been hearing from other Apple partners. Peckham believes that “partners have entered into an agreement to sell Apple’s products, and if Apple is operating restrictive practices that prevent them from doing that, they could have a case,” he told Channelweb.
The problems that eBizcuss is claiming are not news to the industry. Another reseller, who remained anonymous when speaking with CRN, said that the efforts are largely futile. “I can understand why they’re doing it, but can’t imagine any other way that Apple would continue to do business with them,” they said. Another source who also wanted to protect their identity said to CRN that Apple’s unfair practices are no secret, however, and that the inequality extends to service prices, where Apple will often undercut outside authorized providers by as much as $200.
Despite awareness of these issues, however, other resellers are fairly sure this legal action won’t really change anything. It has been tried before, as we have noted, by resellers in the U.S. Dave Stevinson, who works with Apple reseller VIP computers in the UK, told Channelweb that Apple’s partners “are aware of the rules of engagement with Apple and know exactly how to make money from selling Apple kit.” Apple may employ practices that not every reseller is thrilled about, in other words, but there is nothing hidden or surprising about those ways of doing business.
It sounds like the case is bringing some buried frustrations to the surface for Apple reseller partners, but it also seems like those same parties are mindful of protecting their relationship with Cupertino. No doubt the eBizcuss case’s success or failure will affect how willing or unwilling others are to pursue similar courses of action.