U.S. appeals court resurrects App Store antitrust lawsuit against Apple

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that iPhone users are free to sue Apple for its alleged App Store monopoly on iPhone apps, Reuters reports. This latest ruling resurrects a legal challenge that was originally filed back in 2012, which accused Apple of engaging in anticompetitive behavior by restricting iPhones to only run apps purchased from Apple’s own App Store, thereby artificially inflating the prices of apps by stifling market competition. In response, Apple argued that users did not have any standing to sue Apple because apps are sold by individual developers, and that Apple simply provides the storefront for developers, in return for a cut of app sales. A lower court originally sided with Apple on the matter, however, Judge William A. Fletcher of the appellate court ruled this week that since iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, iPhone users have a right to bring a legal challenge against Apple.
Notably, the courts have not addressed the substance of the allegations in any way — the cases up to this point are merely over whether users have the right to bring a suit against Apple at all. Apple declined to comment, but Mark C. Rifkin, the lawyer representing the group of iPhone users behind the suit, told Reuters in an interview that the objective of the suit would be to either “compel Apple to let people shop for applications wherever they want, which would open the market and help lower prices” or to have Apple “pay people damages for the higher than competitive prices they’ve had to pay historically because Apple has utilized its monopoly.” The case is Pepper et al v. Apple Inc., case number 4:11-cv-06714 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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