Media & Entertainment

Italy fines Amazon and Apple $230M over alleged reseller collusion


Image Credits: Brian Heater

Amazon and Apple have been hit with almost $230 million (€203 million) in total fines by Italy’s antitrust authority — following an investigation into reselling of Apple and (Apple-owned) Beats kit on Amazon’s Italian e-commerce marketplace.

The authority says the alleged collusion decreased the level of discounts available to consumers buying Apple and Beats products on the Amazon Italy marketplace.

It has also ordered the tech giants to end the restrictions on resellers.

The AGCM announced the sanction today, saying its probe identified a restrictive agreement between the pair to block some “legitimate” resellers of Beats products on

The fine breaks down into €134.5 million (~$151 million) for Apple and €68.7 million (~$77.3 million) for Amazon.

The agreement in question was signed between the pair back in October 2018.

Per the AGCM’s press release, it found the agreement contained a number of contractual clauses that prohibited official and unofficial resellers of Apple and Beats products from using — with the restriction limiting the sale of Apple and Beats products on to Amazon itself and a number of resellers the authority says were “chosen individually and in a discriminatory way” — in violation of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

“[T]he investigation established the intention to introduce a purely quantitative restriction on the number of retailers, allowing only Amazon and certain subjects, identified in a discriminatory way, to operate on,” it writes in the release [which we’ve translated from Italian with Google Translate].

“The terms of the agreement also restricted cross-border sales, as retailers were discriminated against on a geographic basis. The restrictions of the agreement have affected the level of discounts offered by third parties on, decreasing their size.”

The authority notes that Amazon’s local marketplace accounts for at least 70% of purchases of consumer electronic kit in the country, of which “at least 40% are represented by retailers who use Amazon as a brokerage platform”.

“It therefore appears essential that the application of competition rules ensure a level playing field for all retailers who use marketplaces as an increasingly important place for carrying out their commercial activity, especially in today’s context, avoiding the implementation of discriminatory behaviors that restrict competition,” it adds.

“In this perspective, the Authority’s decision recognizes, in line with the jurisprudence of the EU Court of Justice, the need for distribution systems, in order to be compatible with competition rules, to be based on qualitative criteria, not discriminatory and applied equally to all potential resellers.”

The Italian authority further notes that, following its investigation into the Amazon-Apple agreement, national competition authorities in Germany and Spain subsequently initiated similar proceedings.

Spain’s Comisión National de los Mercados y la Competencia announced a possible disciplinary proceeding against Amazon and Apple this summer — opening its own investigation (which it said would take up to 18 months to complete).

While, back in 2018, Germany’s Bundeskartellamt initiated an abuse proceeding against Amazon following complaints by sellers on its marketplace — closing the proceeding the following year after Amazon amended its general terms of business for sellers and pledged additional changes to alleviate competition concerns.

More recently, following a major update to German competition law regarding digital platforms, the Bundeskartellamt now has open proceedings examining the market power of both tech giants — and if it confirms their “paramount significance for competition across markets”, as the law puts it, the Federal Cartel Office will be able to apply ex ante measures to proactively impose conditions on how Amazon and Apple can operate in Germany to control the risk of market abuse.

Amazon’s market power to be tested in Germany in push for ‘early action’ over antitrust risks

The two tech giants were contacted for comment on the AGCM decision.

Amazon confirmed it will be appealing, sending the following statement, attributed to a spokesperson:

We strongly disagree with the decision of the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) and we intend to appeal. The proposed fine is disproportionate and unjustified.

We reject the ICA’s suggestion that Amazon benefits by excluding sellers from our store, since our business model relies on their success. As a result of the agreement, Italian customers can find the latest Apple and Beats products on our store, benefiting from a catalogue that more than doubled, with better deals and faster shipping.

Amazon also sought to claim the agreement it inked with Apple was good for consumers — leading to an increase in the volume of Apple products available for them to buy on its marketplace and highlights individual instances where discounts had been applied to some Apple products.

Amazon also sought to deny any kind of market dominance, saying its marketplace represents less than 1% of the global retail market and that there are larger retailers in every country in which it operates, including Italy — arguing that businesses have multiple channels to sell Apple products, both on and offline.

It added that third-party sellers account for circa 60% of sales on its marketplace, including around 18,000 Italian SMEs it said sell on Amazon.

Apple also sent a statement confirming it will appeal, writing:

We work hard to create the best products in the world with a great user experience. For the safety of our customers and the integrity of the products they buy, it’s important they know they’re purchasing genuine products. Non-genuine products deliver an inferior experience and can often be dangerous. 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. We respect the Italian Competition Authority but believe we have done nothing wrong and plan to appeal.
This report was updated with Apple’s response; and with a correction — Apple actually has the larger fine (€134.5M) and Amazon the smaller (€68.7M), rather than the other way around as we originally misstated 

Big tech blows a collective raspberry at the House’s antitrust report

Apple’s App Store to face scrutiny in Germany as FCO opens ‘market power’ proceeding

More TechCrunch

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.