Supreme Court could allow suit over Apple iPhone apps’ sales

Supreme Court

Apple approaches US Supreme Court to block customers from suing it for monopoly abuse

Going to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Apple was classified as a distributor of apps that are sold directly to consumers, giving developers the right to bring suit against the company under antitrust laws.

However, a class-lawsuit filed against Apple is seeking damages over allegations that the Cupertino, California-based company is actually violating federal antitrust laws. A class-action lawsuit against Apple for engaging in monopolistic practices to be exact. "Apple took 30% from the customer, not from the developer".

"The harm to the consumers here is that they have to pay higher prices for apps", Francisco said, because "Apple controls the pipeline that connects app makers on the one hand and iPhone users on the other".

Apple spokeswoman Rachel Wolf Tulley said in a statement after the arguments that the App Store has fueled competition and promoted innovation in software development, leading to millions of jobs in the sector.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who taught antitrust law, said it was a simple and long-standing principle that those with a complaint sued the monopoly. In that case, the court ruled that damages for anti-competitive conduct can only be awarded to those who were directly overcharged, rather than indirect victims who paid an overcharge passed on by others. Apple collects a 30 percent commission on every sale. "And they are able to extract monopoly pricing by virtue of a unique e-commerce monopoly on their App Store". Such a move would certainly compromise the security of iPhones and iPads though.

The Trump administration is siding with Apple.

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The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision in the case in June.

Of course, the existence of the Google Play Store which matches the iPhone pricing in many regards appears to run counter to one of the trains of thought behind the case.

Apple says the consumers can't press the suit because it centers on the commissions the company charges to app developers.

More than 30 state attorney generals have backed Pepper in the case, notably including support from both Texas and California.

Liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer seemed certain that the iPhone buyers' claims should go forward.

Two conservatives, Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, questioned whether the court's 1977 ruling that established that only direct purchasers of a product can bring federal antitrust suits for overpricing has been superseded by the changing economy. At issue now is only whether the antitrust suit against Apple can proceed to further hearings and a trial on whether Apple wields monopoly power. "We are hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize Apple's critical role as a marketplace for apps, and uphold existing legal precedent by finding in favor of Apple and the millions of developers who sell their apps on our platform", the spokesperson said.

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