A French court will rule on today on an unusual case brought by the tech firm, which aims to ban the French NGO Attac from its premises.
Attac regularly stages what it insists on calling “good-natured” stunts at French Apple stores to criticise the company’s tax affairs.
At the height of the Christmas shopping period last December, about 100 Attac volunteers arrived at Apple’s Paris store at Place de l’Opéra. Some danced the conga, others unfurled a huge banner saying “We’ll stop when Apple pays” and some brandished huge cardboard cheques in reference to the European commission ruling in August 2016 that the iPhone maker must reimburse the Irish state a record €13 billion to make up for what it considered to be unpaid taxes over a number of years.
Attac activists in Aix-en-Provence whitewashed the windows of an Apple store to allude to what it called the company’s “opaque” tax affairs, just when the company was launching its much-detayed and fairly-pointless, overpriced iPhone X.
The activists did not cover their faces and described their actions as taking place in a kind of party atmosphere.
Apple submitted court papers insisting that it has “a long tradition of supporting individuals and groups that peacefully express their opinions” but it accuses Attac activists of “vandalising [Apple] shops and endangering the security of staff and customers”.
The company also said its sales had been affected. Apple France has asked the court to ban Attac from its stores and to fine the activists €150,000 and €3,000 in commercial damages if they break the ban.
Attac has denied vandalism, with its spokesman saying: “We simply went into Apple shops in a festive and good-natured way with music and theatre.”
Attac’s lawyer Julien Pignon told France Info: “These demands are totally out of proportion with regard to the superior principle of freedom of expression and freedom to demonstrate which is guaranteed by French law and the European convention on human rights.”
If the court grants the injunction, then police can be called to arrest demonstrators for contempt of court. Ironically this will cost the taxpayer a fortune. It would not be so bad if Apple actually paid tax in France and not in Ireland.