Late last week we brought you news of a lawsuit brought against Apple by French retailer eBizcuss, the largest Apple Premium Retailer (APR) in France. The suit accuses Apple of anti-competitive behavior. Specifically, eBizcuss says that Apple unfairly gives preferential treatment to its own Apple Stores over local retail partners. In an interview with Le Figaro, eBizcuss CEO François Prudent claimed that his stores had seen a significant decline in business since Apple brought their own retail store to France (to the Louvre, no less) in 2009. This, he said, is despite his company investing $6.5 million to bring itself into line with Apple’s stringent requirements for resellers.
Now, British news site ChannelWeb is reporting that eBizcuss is not the only European APR to have problems with Apple’s business practices. After the story broke in Europe, two other APRs – one continental and one in Britain – approached ChannelWeb to offer their agreement with eBizcuss’s accusations. The continental retailer even sent ChannelWeb a 4,400 word letter enumerating its concerns with Apple’s business practices.
The letter listed a number of ways in which Apple has treated its APRs unfairly. The letter says that APRs have often received major Apple products later and in fewer numbers than Apple’s own stores, that many have not been allowed to sell the iPhone at all, that Apple has cut some APRs’ credit lines, leading to cash flow problems, and that Apple’s requirement for in-store reorganization reduces the number of third party accessories APRs can sell, stifling a lucrative aspect of their business.
These two retailers’ support for eBizcuss stopped does not appear to go further than their communication with ChannelWeb, however. Both spoke on condition of anonymity, out of fear that Apple could retaliate if their support of eBizcuss were known.
It will be interesting to watch how this case pans out. If eBizcuss gains even a small measure of victory now, it could have significant repercussions for Apple’s dealings with its retail partners later, especially if other retailers are emboldened to take similar action in other countries.