Apple faces the prospect of sanctions in Samsung’s stomping ground of South Korea. The country’s antitrust watchdog is reportedly none too happy about Apple passing along advertising and repair costs to local telecom operators.
It’s the latest criticism of Apple in a country whose antitrust watchdog has sometimes been accused of taking steps to hurt foreign companies doing business.
There are two main criticisms of Apple’s behavior on this occasion. The first is that Apple makes telecom companies follow its own guidelines for adverts, but does not share the costs. The second is that Apple Korea reportedly obligates telecom operators to bear repair costs and display stand installation costs, while ordering that they sell a certain amount of products to sell in the country.
Apple has been selling the iPhone in South Korea since 2009. Since that time, it has been criticized by South Korean regulators and in the local press. This has included dedicating plenty of column inches to the high price point of the iPhone to suggesting a possible recall of the devices for nonsensical reasons. On the eve of the iPhone X launch in South Korea, Apple’s offices in the country were raided.
Roger Kay, president of the tech analysis firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, has previously accused South Korea of having a “protectionist agenda,” and suggested that the Korea Fair Trade Commission has been known for, “slapping spurious charges on foreign companies.”
Nonetheless, the criticisms of Apple making mobile carriers order a certain amount of product and pay for ads isn’t unique to South Korea. Taiwan fined Apple 20 million Taiwanese dollars ($683,068) for this in 2013. In 2016, France also fined Apple 48.5 million euros ($59.39 million) for the same thing.
Should Apple be charged by South Korea’s trade organization, its punishment will likely include a fine and a “correction order for compulsory buying, compulsory benefits and offering disadvantages.”