eBizcuss, France's largest Apple reseller, sued the vendor last week for alleged unfair competitive practices, including artificially curtailing availability of hot selling products like the iPad 2 and MacBook Air.
eBizcuss CEO Francois Prudent claims that his company’s business dropped 30 percent in the third quarter of 2011 as a result of the product shortage, which he says stems from Apple favoring its inaugural retail store, which opened in Paris in 2009, the French daily newspaper Le Figaro reported last week.
Prudent is also accusing Apple of contacting his customers directly and undercutting him on quotes to commercial customers, according to Le Figaro. He's particularly peeved because eBizcuss, at Apple's behest, spent $6.5 million to upgrade the point-of-sale system for its 16 locations in France.
Prudent's claims have a familiar ring to Apple's U.S. resellers, who've been accusing the vendor of trying to phase them out ever since the first Apple Store opened in 2001.
"This has been going on for a long time -- Apple definitely serves themselves first when it comes to new product availability," said one Apple reseller, who requested anonymity. "It also happens with services -- I've had cases where getting a product fixed through an Apple service center would cost $250, while the Apple Stores will do it for $50."
Apple didn't respond to a request for comment.
Some Apple resellers have previously turned to the courts for help. Thomas Santos, president of San Francisco reseller MacAdams Computing, sued Apple in December 2002 for allegedly withholding new products from resellers for months and stocking its own retail stores first. Apple de-authorized MacAdams Computing in October 2003, and the reseller filed for bankruptcy the following December.
In 2005, seven other Apple resellers filed similar lawsuits against the company, and Apple subsequently reached unspecified settlements with all of them, according to its 2006 Form 10-K.
But despite the settlements, Apple resellers don't expect eBizcuss to get anywhere with its current lawsuit against the company.
"This lawsuit is unlikely to result in anything but continued pain and suffering for the reseller," said one source, who requested anonymity to protect his relationship with Apple.
"I can understand why they're doing it, but can't imagine any way that Apple would continue to do business with them," said another Apple reseller, who also requested anonymity for the same reason.