Another Chance to Take a Bite Out of Apple in Europe's iPhone Probe

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Since the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, European wireless carriers spent billions of euros to put more smartphones into consumers’ hands, part of a bid to get them to browse the Web, send e-mail and watch videos on their handsets. Close

Since the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, European wireless carriers spent billions of... Read More

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Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Since the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, European wireless carriers spent billions of euros to put more smartphones into consumers’ hands, part of a bid to get them to browse the Web, send e-mail and watch videos on their handsets.

When you're the world's most valuable company, which Apple currently is, you become a popular target for scrutiny.

This time, it's the European Commission, which is looking into whether the company's iPhone distribution practices are anticompetitive, Bloomberg News has reported. A spokesman for Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told my colleague last month that the regulator had been tipped by "industry players" about Apple’s practices.

The EU has sent mobile operators a questionnaire about their agreements with Apple in order to understand whether these deals prevent rivals from securing better terms, the Financial Times reported. Today is the deadline for the carriers to respond. Apple has said its contracts "fully comply with local laws wherever we do business, including in the EU."

International controversies have been piling up on Apple. The U.S. Senate brought in Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook to explain the company's tax-reporting strategies and why it has a boatload of cash overseas. Last year, Apple settled an EU antitrust probe into e-books pricing by changing agreements with four publishers. And last week, Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, testified in the U.S. Justice Department’s civil antitrust case on e-book pricing.

Apple wants to prevent Europe's preliminary iPhone probe from turning into a full-blown investigation. A flurry of government assaults can paralyze a company, especially one in the fast-moving technology industry. Remember Microsoft in the late-1990s?

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