Following yesterday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that a class-action antitrust lawsuit will be able to proceed against Apple for alleged anti-competitive behaviour in running the App Store, Apple has fired back in a statement to CNBC, saying that it is confident that it will prevail once the facts of the case are presented in court, adding that the App Store is not a monopoly regardless of how you look at it.
Today’s decision means plaintiffs can proceed with their case in District court. We’re confident we will prevail when the facts are presented and that the App Store is not a monopoly by any metric.Apple Statement
Yesterday’s narrow 5-4 Supreme Court ruling gave the green light for the antitrust case to proceed against Apple based purely on whether there was legal grounds for such a challenge to even be brought up in the first place; it did not address the subject of the argument itself. In fact, in the Court’s decision, Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted that the case could result in Apple being cleared of any wrongdoing — an opinion that Apple itself naturally shares — however despite a strong dissenting opinion from four of the Justices, the will of the Court was that the plaintiffs had the right for their case to be heard, and that Apple should not be able to block the case on the basis of legal technicalities.
As CNBC also reported, however, the plaintiffs in the class-action suit, which has been ongoing in various forms since at least 2011, still have a long road ahead of them to prove their allegations amidst complicated antitrust legislation. In fact, legal experts suggest that the Supreme Court win was actually a considerably easier victory than what the plaintiffs now face: trying to prove that Apple’s App Store is in fact a monopoly.
The claim they’re bringing here is a pretty hard claim, it’s a monopolization claim.Christopher Sagers, Professor of Antitrust Law, Cleveland State University
The word “monopoly” has been thrown around a lot in the tech industry, however it doesn’t necessarily mean what many outside of legal circles may think it does. The plaintiffs’ case hinges on the fact that the App Store is the only source of apps for iOS devices, thereby making that market more expensive, but the fact that Apple devices don’t even represent a majority of the smartphone market, much less a dominant position, will likely make this a difficult argument; since consumers have a choice between Apple’s iPhone and a wide variety of Android devices, the most obvious question would be whether the Google’s Play Store should be considered a competitor to Apple’s App Store. In other words, since Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on the smartphone industry, there’s going to be a lot of legal wrangling to try and determine whether the App Store itself could be considered a monopoly.
Some analysts and legal experts are also suggesting that Apple could choose to settle with the plaintiffs or perhaps make some changes to how the App Store works rather than leaving this case pending for the several years it’s likely to take to reach a resolution. However, there seems to be enough at stake here for Apple to continue to fight this one purely on principle alone, and certainly Apple’s statement suggests that it’s unwilling to give any quarter toward suggestions that the App Store could be considered in any way to be a monopoly.