The company's product sales are healthy, but Apple is having a much tougher time right now selling politicians on the legitimacy of its business practices. Following the announcement of antitrust investigations in the US and EU, it today emerged that an Italian regulator will probe both Apple and Amazon over alleged anti-competitive cooperation.
The investigation, Reuters reports, concerns the sale of Apple products and Beats headphones. It will seek to establish if Apple and Amazon made an agreement to stop other resellers getting hold of stock and potentially selling it at a lower price.
The L'Autorita Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) announced in an Italian-language press release that its inquiry relates to article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
"The agreement to exclude some subjects from the marketplace," the AGCM said (filtered through Google Translate), "appears potentially suitable to reduce competition due to the raising of barriers to the outlet of online sales markets to the detriment of unofficial retailers."
We're hearing about this now, but it seems that investigators have wasted no time: Apple and Amazon offices in Italy were searched yesterday, according to Reuters.
The news comes at an awkward time. Tim Cook already has an appointment to discuss potential violations of competition law with the US House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee on 27 July (the same week the company will report its Q3 2020 earnings and presumably face questioning from some fairly concerned shareholders), while the European Commission is looking into the legality of Apple's revenue share on the App Store.
Investigators may be mollified somewhat, however, by changes to App Store rules announced at WWDC last month: developers will, for example, be able to appeal against unfavourable decisions and even against the rules themselves.