Apple App Store anti-trust lawsuit brought back from the dead

A proposed class-action suit charging Apple with violating United States anti-trust laws has been brought back from the dead yesterday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The case alleges Apple's famed App Store constitutes a monopoly, and thus the class should be refunded the commission fees Apple charges.

Where Apple gets into trouble, in the eyes of the plaintiffs, is in the tight reigns it holds when it comes to app installation and App Store submission guidelines. While Apple's famously tight grip on its store has been a boon to the success of the iPhone and iOS in general, the plaintiffs argue its restrictions prohibit users from circumventing the App Store to side-load apps, or utilizing third-party app stores. This makes the App Store the only game in town, and effectively forces developers to pay them a 30% fee, lest they be locked out of the App Store's lucrative user base.

The suit, originally filed in 2013, initially demanded damages in the form of refunds of Apple's commission fees for apps purchased between 2007 and 2013, a total that could cross well into the hundreds of millions of dollars. However, Apple's lawyers were able to successfully get it thrown out by arguing that apps are not purchased from Apple, rather they are purchased directly from the app developer with Apple effectively serving as a middle man.

The plaintiffs persisted, arguing that apps were indeed purchased directly from Apple, with it handling the entirety of the purchase and passing along the developers cut after it took its fees, and yesterday the three-judge panel agreed. With the reopening of the case, the plaintiffs are also looking to expand the size of the class by lengthening the timeframe to include years up to and including 2016.

The success of Apple's App Store marked the success of the iPhone, and lead to the spawning of numerous other stores for PCs and Android devices, so it will be interesting to see what will come of this case. Regardless of the outcome, it's safe to say the massive success of the App Store will greatly overshadow any penalties they may have to pay out.

You can read the full text of the decision at the source link below.

Source: Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit via Bloomberg

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