Supreme Court Rules Apple Anti-Trust Lawsuits May Move Forward

Apple Shares Fall After Supreme Court Allows Consumer Lawsuit Over App Store

"Apple's alleged anticompetitive conduct may leave Apple subject to multiple suits by different plaintiffs", the Court noted in its ruling.

Apple relied on a Supreme Court precedent (Illinois Brick, 1977) in which the State of Illinois was told it could not sue a brick-making company for overcharging construction companies that needed the bricks because the state was not a direct purchaser of the bricks.

"Ever since Congress overwhelmingly passed and President Benjamin Harrison signed the Sherman Act in 1890, "protecting consumers from monopoly prices" has been 'the central concern of antitrust, ' " Kavanaugh wrote in the majority opinion.

Apple argued that the iPhone owners do not have the right to sue because Apple is an intermediary. The core of Apple's argument is that, while it maintains the App Store, the prices for apps within it are set by developers.

The Google Play store, Apple's chief rival to the App Store, takes a similar cut of up to 30 per cent from developers for app sales.

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Apple argues that consumers shouldn't be able to sue, citing an earlier ruling, which argues that "indirect purchasers" can't sue a company for antitrust damages.

"In the retail context, the price charged by a retailer to a consumer is often a result (at least in part) of the price charged by the manufacturer or supplier to the retailer, or of negotiations between the manufacturer or supplier and the retailer", Kavanaugh said.

New Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the court's four liberals in rejecting a plea from Cupertino, California-based Apple to end the lawsuit over the 30% commission the company charges software developers whose more than 2 million apps are sold through the App Store.

The dissent was also anxious that simple contractual changes could see companies use the decision to their advantage - but in the opposite direction: "To evade the Court's test, all Apple must do is amend its contracts".

The court has not declared Apple monopolists yet, but this ruling does allow the case to proceed. This means that, if you're so inclined, you could bring suit against Apple for overcharging you. That may be coming to a head not just through Apple v. Pepper, but a European Commission investigation sparked by Spotify. Unlike Android, iOS customers can only get apps from that official source, which Apple says serves as kind of quality control to weed out security threats and apps that violate the company's terms of service. This could be a very expensive decision against Apple; plaintiffs who win an antitrust suit can be awarded three times the amount of the damages that they are asking for. Apple filed for a writ in 2017 taking the issue to the Supreme Court.

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