Top US court allows consumer lawsuit on Apple app store monopoly

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The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that a consumer lawsuit accusing Apple of illegally monopolizing the company’s App Store may proceed, opening a new avenue of antitrust litigation against the iPhone maker.

In a 5-4 ruling, the justices rejected Apple’s argument that consumers lacked standing to proceed with their lawsuit because it was merely an intermediary with app developers.

The class-action lawsuit maintains that Apple, which takes a 30 percent commission on app sales, abuses its monopoly position, resulting in higher prices.

The opinion written by the newest court member, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said consumers had a right to pursue their case because they have a direct relationship with Apple.

“If a retailer has engaged in unlawful monopolistic conduct that has caused consumers to pay higher-than-competitive prices, it does not matter how the retailer structured its relationship with an upstream manufacturer or supplier,” the opinion said.

Kavanaugh was joined by liberal justices Ruth Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

A dissenting opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by other conservatives on the court agreed with Apple’s argument that developers, not the company, sell to consumers and that the lawsuit is based on “pass-on” liability.

“The problem is that the 30 percent commission falls initially on the developers,” Gorsuch wrote.

“So if the commission is in fact a monopolistic overcharge, the developers are the parties who are directly injured by it. 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.”

Apple’s online marketplace is the sole avenue for apps for its iPhone and other mobile devices, and the company has paid out more than $100 billion to developers since launching the store a decade ago.

Apple did not immediately respond to an AFP query on the decision.

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