Beats: Italian antitrust fine for Apple and Amazon cancelled on appeal

An antitrust win for Amazon and Apple in Italy, where an appeals court has cancelled a multimillion-dollar penalty the pair were hit with last year for alleged collusion following an investigation into the reselling of Apple and (Apple-owned) Beats kit on Amazon’s Italian e-commerce marketplace.

The original €203 million (total) penalty had already been reduced to €173.3 million, earlier this year — due to an error in the competition watchdog’s calculations. But today the regional administrative court of the Lazio region cancelled the fine altogether (via Reuters).

The competition watchdog, the AGCM, declined to comment on the decision.

The reason for overturning the penalty appear to be related to administrative procedures.

Italian press reports that the court agreed with the tech giants’ complaints that the regulator did not provide enough time for them to properly defend themselves; and also found that the AGCM had failed to conduct elements of its investigation efficiently — underlining the challenge facing regulators seeking to investigate well-resourced tech giants as all elements leading to an antitrust decision may be scrutinized on appeal and procedures must be robust enough to stand up to accusations of unfairness.

Amazon welcomed the Tar de Lazio ruling, sending us this statement:

We welcome the Court’s decision. Our business model across Europe relies on the success of small and medium-sized businesses, and we will continue to work hard to provide a great selection from Apple, and the value and convenience that our customers love.

Apple was also contacted for comment but at the time of writing it had not responded.

Both companies have plenty else on their antitrust plate in Europe, where other national regulators (such as in the U.K. and Germany) are probing a number of concerns linked to their businesses — including complaints about Apple’s App Store and Amazon’s use of third-party sellers’ data, among others.

The European Commission also has a number of open probes of Apple, including one investigating complaints against Apple Pay and another focused on the App Store rules for streaming music services — two areas where it has previously issued formal statements of objection.

While Amazon is also under EU probe over its use of merchants’ data, in relation to how it operates the ‘Buy Box’ on its ecommerce marketplace and over T&Cs it attaches to sellers being able to have their offers qualify for its loyalty program, Prime.