French pranksters face Apple Store ban for tax protests

Apple wants
us to think of our friendly local Apple Store as a
“community hub” or “town square,”
but that apparently
doesn’t include being a space for public protests.

According to a new report,
Apple has gone to court in Paris to try and prevent French tax
campaigners from pulling stunts inside its local retail stores.
Specifically, it wants to ban the French NGO Attac from
entering its premises.

Attac has
staged what it refers to as “good-natured” stunts in Apple
Stores as a way of drawing attention to Apple’s controversial
tax practices.

December, around 100 volunteers danced a conga in Apple’s Paris
store at Place de l’Opéra, while displaying a large banner
reading, “We’ll stop when Apple pays.” Attac activists in
Aix-en-Provence also whitewashed the windows of an Apple Store
at the time of the iPhone X launch as a reference to Apple’s
“opaque” tax affairs.

The activists
do not cover their faces, and claim that their stunts resulted in
a “party” atmosphere, rather than a threatening one.

documents filed on Monday, Apple lawyers argued that the
company has a, “long tradition of supporting individuals and
groups that peacefully express their opinions,” but accuses
Attac activists of “vandalizing [its] shops and endangering the
security of staff and customers.”

lawyer Julien Pignon says that Apple’s “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

A court verdict is set to be announced on February 23.

Apple’s tax
battles in Europe

The European Union
handed Apple an enormous tax bill
 of 13 billion euros
($15.5 billion) in August 2016, claiming that the company took
advantage of illegal state aid that allowed it to route profits
through Ireland. The investigation alleged that Apple paid
the equivalent of
as little as 0.005 percent
on all European profits in 2014.
Apple will start
paying the bill next month

Tim Cook met with French President Emmanuel Macron
on a visit to Europe at the end of 2017
. Macron is
one one of many European leaders wanting to reform tax
structures to make it more difficult for companies, including
Apple, to avoid taxes by using complex shell company
structures. He has previously accused tech giants of failing to
contribute to a common good.

Apple has always argued that it pays every cent that it owes,
and reminded critics that it is the
world’s largest tax payer
. (Which, as the world’s most
valuable company, is to be expected!)


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