US Supreme Court Approves Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple

Ann Santiago
Мая 16, 2019

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that a group of consumers can sue Apple over App Store rules they say are anti-competitive. Apple now does not impose the same levies on its own apps; a practice which some software companies allege gives the tech firm an unfair advantage and a monopoly on its own platform.

Apple argued that app purchasers are indirect purchasers because the app developers set prices.

Rifkin said he was gratified by the court's decision, which "reaffirmed the straightforward principle that consumers who purchase a monopolized product directly from the alleged monopolist may sue the monopolist to recover the full amount of the overcharge they are forced to pay by reason of the monopoly".

Needless to say, this isn't a ruling against Apple, but while we're probably several years away from a decision in this case, it could eventually be the first step towards bigger changes in the App Store, including lower cuts on the App Store dev revenue. The shares of Apple went down by nearly 6% to the news.

The court's four liberal justices joined Kavanaugh, one of President Donald Trump's two high court appointees, to reject a plea from Apple to end the lawsuit at this early stage. To start things with, the court ruled an antitrust case against Apple after iPhone owners argued that Apple levies 30 percent commission on App Store sales which are, in turn, passed to the end-users.

"We are extremely disappointed in the decision from the US Supreme Court to reward trial lawyers rather than developers", Reed said. Apple takes a 30% commission fee for each transactions.

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The Supreme Court explains in the Opinion of the Court (linked above) that it's looking into the rights of consumers to sue Apple for this approach.

John Lopatka, a professor of antitrust law at Penn State University, said the latest ruling does not address the merits of the lawsuit but adds to the pressure on companies like Apple.

The plaintiffs, including lead plaintiff Robert Pepper of Chicago, filed the suit in a California federal court in 2011, claiming Apple's monopoly leads to inflated prices compared to if apps were available from other sources. The lawsuit, along with complaints over App Store policies to European officials from rivals such as streaming music Spotify, could draw Apple into the broader public debate over the market power of large tech companies. Developers set the price they want to charge for their app and Apple has no role in that.

"Plaintiffs can be injured only if the developers are able and choose to pass on the overcharge to them in the form of higher app prices that the developers alone control", Gorsuch wrote.

But even a reduction in the commission rate could deliver a financial blow that would even damage a company as profitable as Apple.

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