Consumer files complaint against Apple India with Competition Commission

Alleging anti-competitive practices, a user has filed a complaint against Apple India with the Competition Commission of India claiming Apple is limiting users who want buy iOS devices by partnering with careers.

A user has filed a complaint with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) accusing Apple India of following anti-competitive practices in selling its iOS based devices.

The complaint claims, under section 4 of the Competition Act, Apple is restricting customers to purchase iOS devices from specific stores and carriers. As of now, only some authorised Apple retailers are selling iOS devices. Traditionally, cell phones in India are not sold with a carrier contract. Unlike the US, users are free to purchase handsets of their preferences to be used with operators of their choice. When the iPhone was launched in India, it was available for a contract with Vodafone or Airtel. In the US, a handset is subsidised if bought with a contract which means:

  • Locked iPhone (16GB) handset at $199 with an AT&T plan at roughly $60 a month
  • Unlocked iPhone (16GB) handset can be bought at $649

In India however, a locked iPhone handset with contract costs more than $600 and operator's monthly charges additional. The carriers are taking undue advantage of Apple's exclusivity, irrespective of how much they paid for it. The CCI should look into this carrier malpractice during their investigation since a carrier-locked handset is being sold at the price of an unlocked iPhone. I believe Apple India is not involved in determining the iPhone prices. Apple launches iPhones in India almost an year after they've been released in the US which means they do not consider India as a potential market.

The relevant section from the act (PDF link) says:

Abuse of dominant position

There shall be an abuse of dominant position [under sub-section (1), if an enterprise or a group]

(a)  directly or indirectly, imposes unfair or discriminatory—

(i)  condition in purchase or sale of goods or service; or

(ii)  price in purchase or sale (including predatory price) of goods or service.

(b)  limits or restricts—

(i)  production of goods or provision of services or market therefor; or

(ii)  technical or scientific development relating to goods or services to the prejudice of consumers; or

(c)  indulges in practice or practices resulting in denial of market access [in any manner]; or

(d)  makes conclusion of contracts subject to acceptance by other parties of supplementary obligations which, by their nature or according to commercial usage, have no connection with the subject of such contracts; or

(e)  uses its dominant position in one relevant market to enter into, or protect, other relevant market

The Commission is expected to look into this complaint by end of this week.

Update: As pointed out by some enthusiasts, an unlocked iPhone 4 is available in India from Airtel and Aircel. Regardless, the phones are still sold by the carriers.