What it’s all about
For the past eight years, Apple has been fighting an antitrust lawsuit filed by Robert Pepper back in 2011. In the lawsuit, Mr Pepper argues that Apple’s App Store is a monopoly and action should be taken against it for antitrust law violations.
On the other hand, Apple decided to first argue that iPhone users cannot sue them in regards to the App Store since they buy the apps from developers and not Apple itself. However, the plaintiff claims that users pay money to Apple which makes them direct customers, nullifying Apple’s argument.
On May 13 2019, Apple lost the first leg of the lawsuit, where it was ruled in favour of the plaintiff with the court saying, “iPhone users have a clear and direct relationship with Apple, consumers get the experience of a one-step transaction with Apple.”
What this means is that Apple will now have to argue in court and defend itself against the monopolistic accusations.
The plaintiff claims that it is suing Apple for breaching antitrust laws since the App Store is the only way to access apps on iOS. Robert says that Apple further charges a 30% commission for paid apps on the store, an expense that is later pushed to consumers who do not have an alternative store they can purchase these apps. He further states that as much as the iPhone brand has less than 50% market share on smartphones when it comes to iOS, the App Store has 100% market share.
In its defence, Apple says that locking down their ecosystem is a way of protecting users’ privacy and security. The company goes ahead to state that developers can sell their apps on alternative markets such as Google Play store on smart TVs and even gaming consoles, an argument that the plaintiff dismisses since all those stores do not benefit iOS users.
Why it matters
It may be years for this case to be settled but if we get to it, the plaintiff wants Apple to issue partial refunds on all paid apps since 2007. Mr Robert also wants Apple to allow some alternative methods of buying apps.
If by some miracle Apple actually loses this case, it would mean a lot of changes to how Apple’s iOS platform functions, which will be beneficial to the users in terms of variety and choice but it could also open up iOS to the chaotic world that is Android.