European Union [EU] antitrust regulators are looking into documents submitted by a group of European telecom-carriers over antitrust fears, a media report on Thursday said. A person briefed on the matter told The New York Times that cell carriers in the 27-nation bloc have complained that Apple (AAPL)’s contracts under which they sell the iPhone restrict competition. The complaints are believed to have come from French carriers however, firms from other countries may be involved too.
The European Commission, which is responsible for antitrust enforcement in the EU, did confirm to The Times that it was examining Apple’s deals with cell carriers, but said no formal antitrust investigation has been initiated. As noted by the paper, the EU’s antitrust enforcement body is not obligated to act until a formal complaint of anticompetitive behavior is filed.
“We have been contacted by industry participants and we are monitoring the situation, but no antitrust case has been opened,” said Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for Vice-President of the Commission and Commissioner responsible for Competition Joaquín Almunia.
According to people with knowledge of Apple’s iPhone contracts with European carriers, the terms that some firms must accept to sell iPhones are “unusually strict”, making it difficult for other handset makers to gain a foothold in the market.
An Apple spokeswoman told the paper that its contracts comply with local laws wherever the tech giant does business, including the EU.
It is not clear what the European Commission plans to do next, but if the body finds solid evidence of harm to consumers ; it has the power to levy fines up 10% of a company’s most recent global annual sales.