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ZTE Denies Knowledge Of US Bribery Probe

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Chinese equipment vendor ZTE responded to reports it faced a bribery investigation in the US, with a claim it had not received any official notification and would seek more details from authorities.

In a statement, the company said it did not receive notices from the relevant US government departments and will proactively communicate with them, adding it “is fully committed to meeting its legal and compliance obligations”. It said its production and operations are running as normal.

On 13 March NBC News reported the US Department of Justice was investigating allegations the vendor paid bribes to government officials in overseas markets.

If the allegation proves to be true, the Chinese vendor could face a new round of criminal penalties.

ZTE paid more than US$2 billion in fines for violating trade sanctions and then breaching a 2017 settlement relating to exports to Iran.

In July 2018, the US Department of Commerce formally lifted a seven-year ban on US companies selling components and software to ZTE after it complied with all the requirements of a settlement relating to the matter.

However, the US continues to pursue moves to remove equipment from companies deemed a threat to national security: while ZTE and compatriot Huawei are not explicitly named in these, both have been branded threats by regulator the Federal Communications Commission

France slaps record fine on Apple

Apple took fire from French competition authorities for the second time in a little over a month, for engaging in anti-competitive practices in its distribution network and abusing the economic dependence of resellers.

The French Competition Authority imposed a fine of €1.1 billion (US$1.2 billion) on the iPhone maker for a series of anti-competitive practices, stating this was the highest penalty it had ever imposed.

It also slapped fines of €76 million and €62 million respectively on Apple wholesalers Tech Data and Ingram Micro.

In a translated statement, president of the regulator Isabelle de Silva explained the move followed discovery of “very specific practices that had been implemented by Apple” covering distribution of products, excluding iPhones.

She stated an agreement between Apple and its wholesalers sterilised the market and prevented competition between the vendor’s various distribution channels.

The authority also ruled Apple had stopped premium distributors from lowering prices, which led to retail price alignment across almost half of the company’s market.

Finally, Apple was found to have abused the economic dependence of its premium resellers, which were deprived of stocks during new product launches “so that they could not respond to orders placed with them, while the network of Apple Stores and retailers was regularly supplied”.

The French authority claimed the practices led to the weakening of some resellers, including eBizcuss.

Last month, Apple was hit with a €25 million fine in France relating to deliberately slowing the performance of older iPhones, a practice which subsequently also resulted in the vendor agreeing to pay $500 million to consumers in its home market to settle legal action.

Apple plans to appeal the French fine, Reuters reported. –Mobile World Live

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