Apple reportedly tells Japanese discounters to stop selling online

No word yet from the company as to what is behind the request

It's as if Apple suddenly told Japanese visitors to iTunes that they'll have to get off their butts and head to one of the company's brick-and-mortar retail outlets to buy a - what are they called again? - oh, right, CD if they want their music fix.

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A number of major retailers in Japan say they have been asked by Apple to stop selling its products online. From an IDG News Service story on our site:

Yodobashi.com and Biccamera.com, the online outlets for two of Japan's largest electronics chains, still list Apple products at their sites but advise customers they must come into the store to pick them up.

"At the request of Apple, Yodobashi.com is no longer able to sell [Apple] products," says a message when customers try to buy an iPod or a Macintosh computer. "Apple products must be delivered through a Yodobashi Camera store."

Bloomberg adds some detail, including a fruitless attempt to get comment from Apple.

Industry watchers believe that the Japanese unit of Apple has cut out some sales channels because it was unhappy about online stores selling its products at a discount, the Nikkei business daily reported.

Apple Japan Inc. itself declined to comment to the Japanese newspaper, saying the personnel in charge of the matter weren't available.

A blogger at CrunchGear provides a bit of background and his personal experience trying one of the Japanese online outlets:

What reportedly bothered Apple were the discounts these retailers gave to their customers. The background is that Japanese buyers usually expect discounts of at least 5% whenever they buy consumer electronics or computers - online or offline (some devices can even drop up to 20% and more in price). In most cases, the discounts are being granted in the form of "points" that can be redeemed when it's time for the next purchase.

I just tried and could still put the iPod touch 32GB into my shopping cart on the Yodobashi site, for example. But as you can see on the screengrab on top of this post, Yodobashi says I have to go pick up the device [JP] in one of their brick and mortar shops and call a number for more information. The 5% discount (as bonus points) is still being displayed.

Oddly enough, Japanese consumers are still able to buy Apple products through Amazon Japan, which does not have stores in that country.

They're able to buy there unless they're looking for an iPad, of course, which remain unavailable thanks to Apple's widely publicized delays in getting its latest must-have gadget into the hands of customers abroad.

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