Apple pulls plug on Authorized Business Agent program

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Apple Inc. last week began informing partners that it plans to end its Authorized Business Agent program at the end of the year.

The program is comprised of approximately 800 independent professionals across the U.S. who had been approved by the company to recommend the sale of Apple solutions without having to incur the costs typically associated with becoming a reseller.

As Authorized Business Agents, participants earned fees whenever their clients purchase Apple and related third-party products from an exclusive online store — the Apple Business Agent Store.

In an email to agents last week obtained by both MacNN and AppleInsider, Apple announced that it plans to discontinue the program effective at the close of business on December 31st, 2007.

The Cupertino-based company provided no reason for the cancelation and instead cited a clause in the Authorized Business Agent Agreement that affords it the right to terminate the program on short notice.

"We appreciate your contribution to Apple's business as part of the Apple Business Agent program. Unfortunately, after careful consideration, we have decided to end this program," the e-mail said. "In accordance with section 12 B(i) of the Authorized Business Agent Agreement ('Agreement'), Apple is notifying you that your Agreement will be terminated effective January 1, 2008."

The cancelation of the program is said to have an even greater effect on Apple Consultants Network members who also chose to become Authorized Business Agents, primarily because those individuals were forced to cut their ties with Apple retail stores when joining.

"Personally, I never took this program too seriously because I know from experience that Apple makes these types of about-face moves at a moment's notice," one member told MacNN. "Historically, time and again, Apple [has] proven to be loyal only to Apple, disregarding the needs of the individual resellers and evangelists who built Apple from the ground up and stuck with them through their lean times."

A copy of the AABA cancelation letter obtained by AppleInsider.

ACN members who participated in the program were forbidden from participating in Apple's store referral program, and while those members are now allowed to rejoin the referral program they must now also attempt to rebuild their relationships with nearby stores.

"In my case, I will likely continue to be excluded from the referral program because the nearest store now has its compliment of ACN members," the member said. "So basically, I am about to be completely cut off from Apple as a result of their own program decisions."