Local Apple resellers are watching with interest after their US counterparts, in conjunction with consumers, filed a class action suit against the vendor. It alleges unlawful business practices, misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract.
Specific allegations include the selling of old or refurbished systems as new, improperly calculating warranty periods and appropriating reseller customer lists.
"I'm not surprised that a class action has been brought," Total Recall Solutions (TRS) managing director, Adam Conner, said. "It is difficult for some resellers because Apple makes tough decisions from time to time."
Apple Centre Taylor Square director, Ben Morgan, said the action was a sign that communications between the two parties had broken down to a point of distrust.
"This is happening for a reason," he said. "But it has not happened here yet, so this is a good time for Apple Australia to review its approach to the channel. It is also a good opportunity for the resellers to do the same."
While Next Byte director, Adam Steinhardt, said it was difficult to compare the situations of US and Australian resellers, Apple Centre Broadway manager, David Vanderkley, said repair rebates and stock allocation were common areas of concern.
"The rebate you currently get may only just cover the cost of the technician fixing a notebook, which is not ideal when you are trying to make a profit," he said.
Maccentric managing director, Henrik Kocharians, said the cost of repairs in parts and lost time often exceeded the rebate's worth.
"The build and parts quality could become an issue in time with the increased volume of stock production," he said. "I believe Apple is looking at that, though they haven't changed their rebates in a long time."
While US resellers are also alleging they have had to compete with Apple's direct store for stock, Vanderkley said mass merchants were a bigger problem for the local channel.
"There are a few occasions where mass merchants have been given stock priority over resellers," he said. "However, in the case of iShuffles, I think Apple Centres were given preference over the mass merchants."
While admitting any Australian action would be some time off, Taylor Square's Morgan said the outcome of the US action could have a local impact.
"If it is deemed that Apple is operating unfairly toward its resellers it could change the way the company views the channel," he said. "Rather than change its business practices, it may decide that it doesn't want to support the channel anymore."
Apple Australia would not comment on this story.