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Tech Data to appeal $83 million fine in French antitrust case with Apple

The company said a French agency’s news release that originally said Tech Data, Apple and another wholesaler acted as a cartel has been updated.
Tech Data is based in Largo, where it employs 2,000 of its 14,000 workers. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

LARGO — Tech Data announced Tuesday it disagrees with and will appeal the findings of a French government agency that a week ago fined the Largo-based technology distribution company $83.7 million.

“In the area of competition law, Tech Data is committed to competing independently in the marketplace in full compliance with all applicable antitrust and competition laws wherever the company operates,” the company said in a news release.

The French Autorité de la Concurrence, or competition authority, assessed the fine, plus a record-setting $1.2 billion fine against Apple and a $69 million fine against a second wholesaler, Ingram Micro, based in Irvine, Calif.

Related: Tech Data hit with $83 million fine in French antitrust case

Acting on a complaint, the agency began investigating the three U.S. companies in 2012, seized corporate documents in 2013 raids and concluded that Apple, Tech Data and Ingram Micro worked to undermine competition among some 2,000 retailers selling Apple products from 2005 to 2013.

In announcing its appeal, Tech Data pointed out that the English-language version of the French competition authority’s news release announcing the fines on March 16 has since been updated to remove a reference to the U.S. companies acting as a cartel.

Rather, the company said the agency’s decision concerned “alleged anti-competitive vertical agreements between Apple and its wholesalers regarding volume allocations of Apple products,” not including the iPhone.

“Apple and its two wholesalers agreed not to compete and prevent distributors from competing with each other, thereby sterilizing the wholesale market for Apple products,” competition authority president Isabelle de Silva said in the updated news release.

Apple sold its products to Tech Data and Ingram Micro, the authority said. While the two wholesalers were independent businesses, French officials said Apple “carefully allocated the distribution of its products, specifying to the two wholesalers the exact quantities of the different products to be delivered to each distributor,” thus making the retailers “totally dependent” on the stocks decided by Apple and hampering their business.

“The system therefore led to a distortion of competition on the wholesale market by completely controlling sales made by wholesalers and by letting Apple favor its own distribution channel by controlling how both direct resellers and ‘indirect’ resellers (i.e., those who obtain their supplies exclusively from wholesalers) were supplied with products,” the authority said.

Tech Data also noted that the French government fined Apple for two other allegedly anticompetitive practices in which Tech Data was not accused of being a participant.

Tech Data said it’s committed to abiding by a global code of conduct that is regularly updated and taught to employees in multiple languages, “so all employees know, understand, and can easily follow our policies."

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