US resellers are claiming that Apple sells merchandise to its own retail stores for less than it charges Apple resellers – and are claiming $7.5 million in damages.

According to a report in the Silicon Valley Business Journal, invoices show Apple's stores are paying less – sometimes substantially less – than resellers.

Former owner of MACadam Tom Santos said: "They are telling their stockholders and the public that their stores are profitable, by themselves, paying the same price that regular dealers pay. That's false."

Attorney Marcus Merchasin said: "MACadam and Elite Computers & Software are seeking $7.5 million in compensatory damages each." Merchasin is representing five resellers who are seeking damages against Apple.

According to Santos, he retrieved 5,300 invoices, from an Apple Web site, for products sent to Apple's own stores between January and June of 2002 and compared them to invoices for the same products delivered to resellers.

A PowerBook G4 laptop that listed for $3,299 was sold to a reseller for $2,969, but to an Apple store for $2,656. A three-year AppleCare extended warranty on a PowerBook that listed for $349 was sold to a reseller for $244 but to an Apple store for $10.06.

The plaintiffs claim they were assured by Apple executives that Apple stores and resellers pay the same price. The Business Journal points out that Apple's ethics policy includes a reminder that "US law prohibits the granting of discriminatory prices to competing customers of the same or similar products if the price difference affects competition."

The resellers are involved in the recent launch of the Tell On Apple Web site.