Apple loses bid to ban protests by French tax campaign group at its stores

Apple loses bid to ban protests by French tax campaign group at its stores
Apple’s case against the tax campaign group Attac was thrown out of a Paris court on Friday. To add insult to injury, the tech giant was ordered to pay Attac’s legal fees.

"The court has recognised the legitimacy of our actions and went as far as to say we behaved in the general interest," said Attac (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and Citizen's Action) spokesman Raphael Pradeau, as cited by The Local. The case emanated from Attac’s sit-in protest –at Apple's flagship Paris store on December 2– at what they claimed was "massive tax evasion" by the US tech company around the world, but specifically in Europe.

In its complaint, Apple alleged that the protest had endangered the safety of staff and customers and therefore further such protests should be banned. For context, Attac held similar sit-in protests at Apple stores in Paris and Aix-en-Provence in November, calling for the tech giant to pay back billions of euros in back taxes which, the EU claims, are owed.

Apple sought a three-year ban of Attac members from its stores, with a €150,000 fine if it was breached. The company also sought €3,000 in alleged damages from the December protests.

The Paris court dismissed Apple's claims, including that it was anticipating "imminent damage" from future protests. The court ruled that, so long as the protests remain peaceful and do not block access or prove to be a fire hazard, they may continue. Furthermore, Apple did not report any damages sustained during the December protest.

"Our actions are aimed at having Apple, the largest multinational company in the world, pay its fair share of taxes in the countries where it actually operates,” Dominique Plihon, spokesman for Attac France, said in an online statement following the court’s decision.

In 2016, the EU claimed Apple owed $14.5 billion in back taxes. Furthermore, the Paradise Papers leaks revealed that the company had strategically transferred tens of billions of dollars through multiple tax havens, including the Republic of Ireland, to minimize its tax burden. The European Commission has taken the Irish government to court for failing to collect the money from Apple in a timely fashion.

In January, the company said it would pay a total of $38 billion (€31 billion) on profits repatriated to the United States from abroad. Apple also benefited greatly from the tax bill passed by the US Congress in December.  

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