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European Commission Probes Apple’s Tactics

The European Commission is taking a closer look at whether Apple is engaging in unfair sales practices.

The EC, which is the executive branch of the European Union, sent a questionnaire last week to several European mobile network operators probing Apple’s distribution terms — specifically, whether those terms preclude rivals from offering a better sales deal.

The questionnaire, reportedly prompted by private complaints from mobile operators, touches on a number of questionable sales practices: Apple forcing groups to buy a minimum number of iPhones; requirements that ensure Apple does not receive less favorable subsidies and sales terms than its competitors; and technical or contractual restrictions on the iPhone 5 that preclude it from being used on high-speed 4G networks in Europe.

The inquiry is still in its early stages — but as we saw with Google, the European Commission doesn’t think fondly of a company trying to elbow out competitors.

The EC is concerned that Apple might be engaging in agreements that “may potentially lead to the foreclosure of other smartphone manufacturers from the markets,” the questionnaire indicates.

There are signs that Apple disables certain technical functions on certain products in certain European countries, which might constitute a breach of EU law, it says.

[Source: The Financial Times]

Europe, Chinese Telecoms to Talk It Out

Chinese telecommunications equipment makers Huawei and ZTE will reportedly meet with European trade authorities Monday to discuss EU concerns that the companies are violating antidumping and subsidy laws.

Europe’s Chinese subsidy concerns are not new. Last September, following complaints from a European industry association, Europe called out Beijing’s subsidies for solar panels.

While the solar panel investigation is expected to wrap up later this year, there is hope that negotiations could help avoid such formal proceedings in the telecoms sector.

Europe might do well to look at China’s response to the United States’ investigations into Huawei and ZTE. After the U.S. declared the companies untrustworthy last winter, Beijing took U.S. tech companies to task.

Only a skeptic would suggest it was retaliation, but one could be forgiven for thinking that China’s targeting of Cisco and Apple might have been a case of payback.

China is preparing to build the nation’s first 4G network, a project that would be worth billions to European companies.

[Source: The New York Times]

More Strikes at German Amazon Hubs

Workers at Amazon’s German operations engaged in a second day of strikes over wages.

Employees went on strike a few weeks ago demanding higher compensation, and then again on Monday.

The dispute stems largely from the classification of Amazon: Germany’s giant services sector union wants wages to meet those required for workers in “retail and mail-order industries,” while Amazon insists that it is a logistics business — not retail and mail-order — and that its workers earn on the upper end of what logistics companies pay.

[Source: Reuters, The Wall Street Journal]

Google Defends Indexing of Extremist Sites

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, defended the company’s indexing of extremist websites at Britain’s annual Hay Festival.

The inclusion of such sites helps police monitor their activity, Schmidt said.

Over the weekend, members of British parliament implored Google to blacklist such sites from Web searches.

The issue has gained extra attention in the UK after the horrific slaying of a British soldier in London at the hands of a pair “jihad-inspired” men.

Google cannot “identify evil and take it down,” Schimdt said.

If content is legal — “even if it’s despicable” — Google will index it, he added.

[Source: The Guardian]

David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author ofThe Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out hisECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.

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