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Apple under scrutiny in Canada for its contracts with carriers

Antitrust watchdog is seeking a court order for Apple documents related to a probe of alleged anticompetitive clauses in its carrier contracts.

Canada's antitrust watchdog is examining Apple Canada's contracts with wireless carriers. CNET

Canada's Competition Bureau said Thursday that it is investigating whether contracts that Apple's Canadian unit has with the country's domestic wireless carriers for iPhones violated antitrust laws.

Specifically, the bureau, which acts as the country's antitrust watchdog, is investigating allegations that Apple Canada included anticompetitive clauses in its contracts with wireless carriers, said Greg Scott, a spokesman for the Competition Bureau. The bureau said it filed a request on Tuesday for a court order to compel Apple to provide company records relevant to its investigation.

"There is no conclusion of wrongdoing by Apple Canada Inc. at this time, and no application has been filed with the Competition Tribunal or any other court to seek remedies for any alleged anticompetitive conduct," Scott said, without identifying how the contract allegations came to the bureau's attention. "Should evidence indicate that the Competition Act has been contravened, the Commissioner will take appropriate action."

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Concerns that Apple engaged in anticompetitive sales tactics to muscle out rival handset makers have raised the attention of antitrust agencies before.

Without announcing a formal investigation, the European Commission sent a nine-page questionnaire to several European wireless carriers last year to determine whether Apple's distribution terms ensure that competitors can't secure better sales deals. The EU was focused on whether Apple's terms mandated a minimum number of iPhone purchases and whether technical restrictions prevented the iPhone 5 from being used on high-speed 4G networks in Europe.

An administrative watchdog in France, called the DGCCRF, also launched an investigation last year into Apple's contracts with wireless carriers, Reuters reported. The agency specifically focused on Apple's requirements related to sales volume, advertising and commissions to a respective carrier's salespeople.