The investigation—run by an administrative body that falls under the French finance ministry—is the latest that looks at Apple's relationship with phone operators, many of whom have chafed under contracts that some European telecom executives say can oblige them to buy large volumes of phones and dictate marketing budgets.
"For operators, handsets have become one of the big expenses," said one of the people familiar with the matter. "There is a balance of power that is shifting."
France has launched other investigation into Apple's business practices. During a 24-hour operation in July, French competition authority 'Autorite de la Concurrence' raided Apple's offices and the offices of its major wholesalers and distributors. It was allegedly looking into whether Apple had engaged in unfair competition against distributors in France that resell its products.