Apple, Amazon fined to the tune of €200m for colluding over Beats headphones sales

Trillion-dollar giants vow to appeal against penalties that amount to just a few hours of profit


Italy's competition authority has fined Apple and Amazon €200m after deciding the pair colluded to unfairly restrict the supply of Apple products and Beats headphones in the Euro nation.

At issue was a contract between Apple and Amazon, signed October 31, 2018, that restricted the sale of Cupertino's electronics and Beats-branded gear on Amazon.it to just carefully chosen resellers, the regulator said on Tuesday.

Even if you were an authorized Apple reseller, if you weren't on Apple's special list, you couldn't flog its wares on Amazon's Italian souk. That was deemed by the watchdog to be against Europe's rules on fair competition and pricing in the marketplace. Apple bought Beats in 2014.

Apple was hardest hit, with a €134.5m ($151m, £113m) penalty while Amazon is on the hook for €68.7m ($77m, £58m). In Apple's case, this amounts to 14 hours of annual profit, judging from its fiscal 2021 financial results [PDF] and for Amazon, about one day of full-year profit, according to its latest figures. Tim Cook and Andy Jassy will be seriously concerned.

Amazon and Apple were also told to knock off the anti-competitive arrangement, and allow more resellers to tout the hardware.

"To ensure our customers purchase genuine products, we work closely with our reseller partners and have dedicated teams of experts around the world who work with law enforcement, customs and merchants to ensure only genuine Apple products are being sold," an Apple spokesperson told The Register.

"We respect the Italian Competition Authority but believe we have done nothing wrong and plan to appeal."

Amazon had yet to comment at time of publication. It is understood, like Apple, Amazon plans to contest its fine. ®


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