Top US court allows consumer lawsuit on Apple app store monopoly

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A group of United States consumers has been given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court to sue Apple over app prices.

Apple's App Store marketplace has always been a target of some consumers and developers because the company takes a commission of up to 30% on sales, the so-called "Apple Tax". A group of customers sued Apple in 2011, charging that the App Store is a monopoly, and in late November the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether customers or app developers have standing in the suit. This commission structure results in higher prices for consumers, the plaintiffs argued. The core of Apple's argument is that, while it maintains the App Store, the prices for apps within it are set by developers.

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.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the 5-4 decision, joined by the high court's liberal bloc.

"If accepted, Apple's theory would provide a roadmap for monopolistic retailers to structure transactions with manufacturers or suppliers so as to evade antitrust claims by consumers and thereby thwart effective antitrust enforcement".

Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's other pick, wrote the dissent for four conservative justices in the Apple case.

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

An organization representing other tech giants, including Amazon, Facebook and Google, filed legal briefs in Apple's defense, telling the Supreme Court that a decision allowing the lawsuit to proceed would put "these platform services... under threat".

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

Apple is reportedly going to make an unpopular decision with its iOS 13 update - dropping support for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE and older iPhones.

A month ahead of Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2019), a report has come out claiming that Apple won't upgrade a substantial number of iOS devices that received iOS 12, to expected iOS 13. "But if Apple does lose, one possible outcome is that Apple might be forced to allow consumers to install apps from outside the App Store".

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