Apple has been hit hard and could end up paying billions of dollars in fines. The iPhone maker on Monday was fined a whopping $1.23 billion by French antitrust authority for anti-competitive practices. The company has been fined for illegally restricting the way wholesalers sell Apple products.

The fine comes at a time when an increasing number of regulators across the world have been closely scrutinizing tech giants on the way handle personal data of users, how their use their powerful market position and the tax they. The scrutiny on these US tech firms have particularly more from European regulators.

Apple feels the heat

Apple
Apple YouTube Grab

The French antitrust authority, Autorité de la Concurrence, on Monday imposed a fine of 1.1 billion euros or $1.23 billion on Apple for anti-competitive behaviour. The tech giant has been found guilty of forming cartels within its distribution network and illegally restricting the way wholesalers sell Apple products. The fine is so far the biggest levied by the French antitrust body on any case.

Besides, two Apple wholesalers were also found guilty by the antitrust body for agreeing on prices. The two wholesalers Tech Data and Ingram Micro also were slapped with fines of 76.1 million euros and 62.9 million euros. The French antitrust authority said that both the wholesalers in France followed Apple's instructions on how to allocate its products the customers, instead of allowing them to freely determine their commercial policy.

End of a long probe

A man looks at the screen of his mobile phone in front of an Apple logo outside its store in Shanghai, China on July 30, 2017.
Reuters

Autorité de la Concurrence started the probe in 2012 after one of its premium resellers, eBizcuss.com, filed a complaint shortly before going out of business. Following the investigations, Apple was found guilty on multiple counts. The company and the two wholesalers, first, had agreed to not compete on price with each other. Second, Apple stopped its premium resellers from having a control over lowering the price of its products.

This made almost all Apple products to have price almost identical across half of Apple's retail market. Also, Apple has been accused of unfairly treating its premium resellers. "Apple and its two wholesalers agreed not to compete with each other and to prevent distributors from competing with each other, thereby sterilizing the wholesale market for Apple products," the Autorité de la Concurrence said in a statement. The tech giant in a statement said that the decision was "disheartening" and is planning to appeal the ruling.