Dealers To Picket Apple Shareholder Meeting

Three independent Macintosh dealers embroiled in an on-going lawsuit over what they call unfair business practices by Apple Computer plan to picket the companyis scheduled shareholders meeting today in Cupertino, Calif. The newest tactic is an attempt by the dealers to put a hotter spotlight on their legal battle with the Mac maker, which is expected to go to trial later this year.

Elite Computers & Software of Cupertino, Calif., MACadam Computers of San Francisco, Calif. and MacTech Systems of Bend, Ore. will picket Appleis annual shareholders meeting beginning at 10 am PDT at Appleis corporate headquarters. Picketers will protest on public property in front of the company headquarters on DeAnza Boulevard.

The protest is meant to motivate stockholders to ask Apple a number of questions about their business practices, according to Thomas Armes, President and CEO of Elite Computers.

"We want to make Apple a better corporate citizen," Armes told The Mac Observer. "This isnit about bashing Apple. The problem we have is with their business ethics. We just want Apple to do the right thing and that is treat their (business) partners honestly, fairly and morally."

Protesters plan on carrying signs to put doubt in the minds of stockholders that Apple is conducting business fairly, said Armes. Among the signs stockholders will see upon driving onto the Apple campus will bear the slogans, "Something is Rotten in Cupertino", "Apple Unfair to Resellers" and "Steve, Youire Fired!"

Armes - an Apple stockholder - said he and others will be handing out fliers of specific questions the dealers believe Apple should answer at the meeting.

Among those questions, include whether or not Apple retail stores pay the same price for products as independent dealers, are the retail stores actually profitable based on the stores purchasing Apple products at the same price as independent Apple resellers, and is Apple misleading shareholders as to the retail storesi profitability. The protesting dealers believe Apple is unfairly paying a lower price for products sold through their retail stores than independent dealers and say they have written proof of the business practice, which will be a major part of their pending lawsuit against Apple.

"If a stockholder asked them, iDo you pay the same price for products as dealers?i, theyire going to have to answer that," Tom Santos, President of MACadam Computers, told TMO. "If they say they pay exactly the same price, then theyire lying...We want people to ask the questions that Apple isnit telling them. Dealers and stockholders are consistently being lied to and being told one thing, yet their playing accounting games that are really unfavorable to consumers and their dealers."

On March 31st, the same dealers who plan to picket launched a Web site to document and share information concerning what they consider to be unethical and illegal business dealings by Apple. The former dealers hope will not only convince other independent dealers to speak up and report what it considers Appleis unfair business practices, but spotlight to customers that Apple is unfairly mistreating dealers who are now in direct competition with Apple since the company started selling product directly to customers via the Web and its retail stores.

The three dealers along with Neighborhood Computers of Littleton, Colo. and Computer International of Los Angeles, Calif. have filed multimillion-dollar complaints in the last year accusing Apple of fraud, breach of contract, unfair competition, false advertising and violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The case is expected to go to trial later this year, Santos said, but discovery of evidence has yet to take place by all parties.

Apple has repeatedly refused comment on the dealer dispute. When asked about how cost is allocated for products sold through the Apple retail stores during last weekis second-quarter conference call, Appleis Senior Vice President of Finance, Peter Oppenheimer, said, "Our corporate policy is not to comment on pending litigation, so I donit want to get into that." Interestingly, the question posed to Oppenheimer never asked or referenced the pending lawsuits.