US SC deals blow to Apple in anti-trust case

Apple logo inside of an Apple store at Grand Central Station in New York

The US Supreme Court has greenlit the antitrust lawsuit against Apple in a surprising decision against the Cupertino-based giant. The antitrust case against Apple involved its allegedly unfair practice of forcing apps on its App Store platform to pay a 30 percent tax on purchases, which is in turn charged by software companies to consumers.

"The plaintiffs' allegations boil down to one straightforward claim: that Apple exercises monopoly power in the retail market for the sale of apps and has unlawfully used its monopoly power to force iPhone owners to pay Apple higher-than-competitive prices for apps", Kavanaugh wrote, denying the existence of an intermediary between Apple and app consumers.

"We're confident we will prevail when the facts are presented and that the App Store is not a monopoly by any metric", the company said in an emailed statement. Today's 5-4 Supreme Court ruling is just the beginning of the Apple antitrust lawsuit, as the Apple v Pepper Supreme Court case could also have major implications for other electronic marketplaces like Google Play and Facebook.

Apple's shares were down more than 5% to $186.79 in mid-afternoon trading. The Supreme Court heard Apple's appeal of the case but ultimately chose to rule against the company's argument. The court in that case "held that an antitrust plaintiff can't sue a defendant for overcharging someone else who might (or might not) have passed on all (or some) of the overcharge to him", Gorsuch wrote.

As iPhone sales continue to tumble, Apple and its shareholders have been looking into improving the company's App Store revenues to compensate.

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However, plaintiffs claim that they had paid using Apple's system when they bought apps from the App Store, therefore they are classified as direct victims of Apple's extremely high levies. Developers set the price they want to charge for their app and Apple has no role in that.

Apple had argued that app buyers are not entitled to sue under a 1977 Supreme Court decision, Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois. "The vast majority of apps on the App Store are free and Apple gets nothing from them". The Dutch anti-trust agency opened an investigation in April into allegations by companies including the Sweden-based online music service Spotify over commissions and other issues.

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.

Apple's App Store features more than two million apps and generated more than $26 billion in payments to developers in 2017, according to The New York Times.

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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