Thursday, 5 January 2012

Apple is Anti-Competitive?

It had to happen. When you analyse how you can buy an Apple PC product, the Apple Authorised Resellers concept is really not particularly healthy, it seems. It appears to be even more more unhealthy when it comes to its own stores.

My own experience of buying an Apple Macbook Pro was not entirely pleasant, I have to say. I went to Solutions Inc in St Albans and made the fatal error of asking for some money off the bill as a discount - as you have the right to do as a consumer, you know. I was greeted with almost revulsion by the local sales manager who made it clear that Apple Authorised Resellers are 'not allowed' to offer discounts or they might lose their status. This status, he explained, was hard earned through training and other such things but it meant that in return, Apple always gave them first in the queue status for stocks of new products.

I actually did connect on LinkedIn with the owner of the reseller but after an initial interest he was more concerned that the sale was lost to Amazon who at least offered a few quid off the deal.

I actually think Apple Authorised Resellers and their Stores are a credit to Apple. They present products brilliantly, the staff are incredibly knowledgeable and you can get all sorts of added services from them which could make the buying experience brilliant. The easy comeback to me by the sales manager was to indicate all that value versus the lack of attention I would get from Amazon before and after the sale. As a simple for instance, there is no such thing as an Amazon phone number and support on any product is not offered. That would have been the best justification for the few pounds difference in price.

But what Apple and its Resellers seem to be risking is the obvious wrath of the European Competition Laws - and they are serious stuff. The spat in France is centred around stock allocations. Theoretically, no matter what status as as  store or reseller may have, access to stock should be on a timed order basis. But it appears that this is not the case.

The case in France is specifically about Apple favouring its own stores over its Premium Resellers but I suspect that this problem could spill over into ether areas. There may a suspicion of some level of collusion between Apple, its stores and the Premium Resellers to keep prices at one high level. If this is proven, then it has some nasty repercussions, as the penalty for breaking European Competition Laws is a fine of up to 10% of global annual revenue.

That's a big 'ouch' and on the face of it and through my personal experience as a buyer, I think they should be worried.

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