France launches probe into Apple's iPhone deals with mobile operators

French competition watchdogs have begun an investigation into the deals Apple strikes with mobile carriers around its handsets.

French authorities have launched an investigation into Apple's relationships with mobile operators in the country.

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The enquiry will look at all aspects of how Apple's mobile hardware is sold in France, French business channel BFM  reported on Wednesday, including the agreements mobile operators make to market Apple devices — typically involving costly advertising campaigns for its handsets.

BFM added that Apple requires operators to offer conditions and promotions around iPhones that are identical or better than those available for other devices, and that subsidies on Apple devices must be 20 percent better than those on rivals' phones.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the investigation is part of a wider-reaching probe into the deals arranged between hardware makers and mobile carriers, including the amount of devices the device makers oblige operators to buy.

Apple typically imposes a maximum sale price for its handsets, BFM said, which caps operators' margins.

The investigation, revealed this week, is being run by the country's competition watchdog, the Autorité de la Concurrence. A spokesman for the organisation declined to comment on the probe, saying: "Investigations are ongoing and during an investigation we cannot provide information on it."

The watchdog is also conducting two separate enquiries involving Apple: one into its treatment of wholesalers, and another regarding the App Store .

Competition authorities outside L'Hexagone are also probing Apple's sales tactics: the European Commission announced in May it had begun a probe into whether Apple's sales contracts with carriers are unfairly keeping rivals out of the European market.

Apple declined to comment on the investigation, as did Orange and Bouygues, France's largest and third-largest mobile operators respectively. SFR, the second biggest operator, did not respond to request for comment.

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