U.S. top court to hear Apple antitrust dispute

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

Now, Apple is petitioning the Supreme Court to throw the case out, again.

The question was whether consumers have the right to sue Apple directly for overcharges, or whether their beef is with app developers who pass along Apple's 30 percent commission and insistence that prices end in $0.99. Analysts estimate that the company made more than US$22 billion ($32.5b) from the App Store worldwide in the first half of 2018. He said he's concerned that if the ruling went against Apple, the company would be liable by both consumers and app developers for a single price increase.

Apple is officially off to the Supreme Court today to fight an antitrust case that claims the App Store operates as a monopoly. Justice Stephen Breyer, who used to teach antitrust law at Harvard Law School, said the consumers' case seemed straightforward and in line with a century of antitrust law.

They say that by charging 30 per cent commission for apps sold through their store, Apple was effectively engaging in price gouging that was passed on to customers.

Apple's lawyers rely on a long-standing court doctrine that holds only "direct purchasers" may bring an antitrust claim. It's that decision that Apple appealed to the Supreme Court. Its argument: the company is merely providing a marketplace for the apps. I pay Apple directly with the credit card information that I've supplied to Apple. Justice Elena Kagan explained that from her perspective, downloading an app is a one-step transaction with Apple.

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Several justices appeared skeptical of Apple's argument. When software developers offer their products, Apple reviews them for compatibility and malware and, once they are approved, charges the developer a 30 percent commission. Under federal law, proving such an allegation could be worth millions of dollars, because awards are tripled for antitrust violations.

The plaintiffs said app developers would be unlikely to sue Apple, which controls the service where they make money, leaving no one to challenge anti-competitive conduct.

Apple was backed by Republican President Donald Trump's administration. They argue that "iPhone consumers nationwide have paid (Apple) hundreds of millions of dollars more for iPhone apps than they would have paid in a competitive market".

The iPhone users, 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 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived it.

A federal district judge initially ruled in Apple's favor, but a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco overruled that decision past year and held that consumers were direct purchasers of iPhone apps.

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