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Apple investigated over alleged bullying to promote iPhone

Apple is being investigated by European watchdogs for allegedly bullying its way into an unfair advantage for selling the iPhone.

Apple is under the microscope for allegedly bullying its way into an unfair advantage for the iPhone. The European Commission is pressing mobile networks to find out if Apple is abusing its market-leading position to give the iPhone an unfair advantage and block rivals from a fair fight on phone shop shelves.

Watchdogs are "investigating alleged anti-competitive behaviour in the EU/European economic area … relating to the distribution of Apple's smart phones and the limitation or exclusion from use of technical functions on iPhones".

The Guardian says it's seen a questionnaire that's been sent to mobile networks by investigators, asking for details on possible dirty dealing. The questionnaire asks if the network's contracts with Apple require them to buy at least a certain number of iPhones, whether Apple considers how many phones a network sells in total before demanding the network buy that amount, and whether networks are forced to subsidise the iPhone to boost sales.

Investigators also want to know if Apple forces networks to give the iPhone preferential treatment. If Apple is forcing networks to buy an inflated number of iPhones and give the iPhone more prominent placing in advertising and in shops, then it could be unfairly squeezing out other phones and phone manufacturers.

Investigators are also looking into whether Apple imposes technical restrictions on the use of the iPhone on 4G networks.

Networks have until 17 June to reply to the European Commission. Although it's not the biggest manufacturer of smart phones -- that's Samsung -- Apple's iPhone is the biggest-selling single phone, giving Apple plenty of clout with networks.

Does Apple need to resort to dirty tricks to fend off Android? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.