Resellers sue Apple, alleging anti-competitive actions

Resellers sue Apple, alleging anti-competitive actions

A group of Apple resellers in the US have recently filed lawsuits against the PC maker, charging that Apple has breached its reseller contracts in an attempt to steer frustrated customers toward Apple Stores.

In a copy of a complaint filed by Macadam Computer in the US District Court for the Northern District of California it is claimed that Apple provided resellers with defective parts, withheld reimbursement for replacement parts that caused damage to Apple products, and failed to recognise customer warranties after resellers serviced PCs they believed were under warranty,

The complaint alleged that Apple was trying to push resellers out of business because it could sell its products for less through its nationwide network of Apple Stores.

Apple declined to comment on the reseller lawsuits.

Several specific anti-competitive business practices are discussed in the lengthy complaint. For example, if a user purchases an Apple PC from a dealer, the customer generally takes that PC back to the dealer if they encounter a problem. Under its contract with Apple, the reseller is supposed to check the PC's registration with Apple to make sure the repairs are under warranty.

When a reseller encountered a broken PC that showed up in its system as under warranty, the reseller fixed that PC at no charge to the customer and filed a report for reimbursement from Apple for the parts and/or labour. However, the complaint alleges that Apple would routinely deny the validity of the warranty and withhold reimbursement for parts and labour. Apple would claim the warranty began when the PC was first shipped out of an Illinois warehouse while most warranties commenced when the user first purchased the product, the suit said.

Another example cited in the complaint centered around the spare parts sent to dealers by Apple. The vendor used a rating system to evaluate its resellers and would dock points from a reseller's rating if the reseller used more than one part to fix a machine or if a defective part sent by Apple caused other components to fail, according to the suit.

A third section of the complaint alleges that Apple used customer information gathered by the resellers to directly contact customers with discounts and special offers the reseller was unable to match.

The San Francisco-based Macadam is seeking injunctive relief against Apple, and to recover the damages it has incurred selling Apple products.

One of the other resellers suing Apple, MacTech Systems of Bend, Oregon, is no longer working with Apple, according to a message on the company's voice mail.

"Due to the lack of support from Apple, MacTech will not continue to provide service or sell Apple products," part of the message read.

The company was moving its business to networking and systems configuration, the message said.

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