Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Competition watchdog orders probe against Apple

Competition watchdog CCI has ordered investigations into allegations that iPhone- and iPad-maker Apple is limiting the availability of its products to a few service providers using its dominant market position.

The Director General of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) was asked to probe the matter after studying a complaint from a customer that Apple is curbing customer choice by limiting the availability of iPhones and iPads in India to a limited number of service providers, besides its signature stores, sources said.

"We have found that prima facie, it makes a case worth investigating further," a source said.

The customer's complaint was admitted under section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002.

An e-mail sent to Apple remained unanswered. At present, iPhone's latest version is available through Aircel and Bharti Airtel in India.

Besides, Apple phones can only be serviced in Apple centres, which in turn charge high rates for servicing.

iPhone, the touch-screen handset that acquired a cult status in the US and other western countries was launched for the first time in India in 2008. Following the launch, the new upgrades have also been introduced in the Indian market.

Smartphones are catching up fast in the Indian market, especially at a time more companies are rolling out 3G services across the country.

3G services, which offer high-speed Internet access, have already been rolled out by operators like Airtel, Vodafone and Aircel.

According to a CyberMedia Research study, around 12 million smartphones are expected to be sold in India during 2011.

The Commission, which became fully functional in 2009, with the appointment of a chairman and six members, has the power to check anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant position, drawn from Sections 3 and 4 of the Competition Act, 2002.

Beginning June 2011, the Commission also received powers to check high-voltage mergers and acquisitions, with the notification of section 5 and 6 of the Act.