By Michael Gold
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) fined Apple Inc $666,700 for restricting the prices charged by local telecom carriers for their iPhone contracts, the first time Apple has been fined for such practices.
The regulator said that Apple Asia, a unit of the Cupertino-based company, required carriers to obtain its permission before setting contract prices on iPhones in violation of Taiwan's free-trade laws.
Apple Asia also told carriers to alter service contract prices and subsidy prices, according to an FTC statement on Wednesday, leading to the fine of T$20 million.
Officials with Apple Asia could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
The three carriers, Chunghwa Telecom Co Ltd <2412.TW>, Taiwan Mobile Co Ltd <3045.TW> and Far EasTone Telecommunications Co Ltd <4904.TW>, had all obtained reseller rights under their contracts with Apple, which gave them the right to set prices, FTC spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said.
Apple has been facing challenges in the rapidly-evolving marketplace for the smartphones in which it once held a commanding lead.
The company recently reported that it signed a long-awaited deal with China Mobile Ltd <0941.HK> , China's largest telecom carrier, to sell its iPhones, raising hopes that it may make significant inroads in the world's largest smartphone market.
(Reporting by Michael Gold and Clare Jim; Editing by Matt Driskill)