France probes app stores over “lock-in,” confirms raid on Apple

In a new move against perceived market abuse by U.S. tech companies, French authorities say they are examining whether Apple and others are violating the law by unfairly “locking in” consumers to app stores.
According to a spokesperson from l’Autorit√© de la concurrence, the agency is concerned about consumers’ “inability to switch” once they purchase apps from forums like Apple’s(s aapl) App Store, Amazon’s(s amzn) Appstore or Google(s goog) Play.
The spokesperson, speaking to GigaOM on Monday, also confirmed a report that the agency conducted a midnight raid of Apple’s office’s last week and seized documents. According to a story by French business site, Les Echos, authorities carried out the raid as part of an investigation into Apple’s pricing practices.
Concerning the app store investigations, Les Echos reported that these came about in response to a change last year in Apple’s pricing rules that made it difficult for developers to “earn a living.” The spokesperson, however, would only cite “lock-in” as a reason for the investigation.
The spokesperson added that the agency had not planned on disclosing the raid or investigations, but was now confirming it in response to press leaks. It appears that persons familiar with the matter tipped off Les Echos, which also cited a French Apple blog, Mac4Ever, as a source for its report.
The raid and app store investigations come at a time when the French government is taking an aggressive stance towards U.S. tech companies; in May, a national report proposed extending a cultural tax to digital devices sold by Amazon and others. Last month, a French court ordered Apple to pay a retroactive 5 million euro copyright tax on iPad sales.