Apple faces its biggest legal challenge yet

  • The United States Department of Justice is suing Apple, alleging that the company illegally maintains a monopoly.
  • The suit looks to get Apple to stop imposing higher fees and unfair costs on developer, creators and customers.
  • Apple says the suit is actually a means for the United States government to control the technology of its citizens.

The second largest tech firm in America by valuation, Apple, has been handed its biggest legal challenge yet. While no stranger to litigation, the company recently faced a judgement over its AirTags, Apple must now contend with a lawsuit brought to it by the government of the United States itself.

According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ), it and 16 other state and district attorneys general have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple for “monopolization or attempted monopolization of smartphone markets.”

The suit alleges that Apple, maker of the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple Earbuds, Macintosh PCs and more, “illegally maintains a monopoly over smartphones” and it does this by selectively imposing contractual restrictions and withholding critical access points to developers.

Because of this, the department believes that the company makes it more difficult for Americans to switch to other smartphone brands. It also undermines innovation for apps, products and services and imposes unfair costs on third-parties like developers, businesses and, of course, customers.

“Apple exercises its monopoly power to extract more money from consumers, developers, content creators, artists, publishers, small businesses, and merchants, among others. Through this monopolization lawsuit, the Justice Department and state Attorneys General are seeking relief to restore competition to these vital markets on behalf of the American public,” the DOJ says.

“We allege that Apple has maintained monopoly power in the smartphone market, not simply by staying ahead of the competition on the merits, but by violating federal antitrust law,” added Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

“For years, Apple responded to competitive threats by imposing a series of ‘Whac-A-Mole’ contractual rules and restrictions that have allowed Apple to extract higher prices from consumers, impose higher fees on developers and creators, and to throttle competitive alternatives from rival technologies,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

The attorneys general are looking to hold the company accountable, and the suit is looking to stop the Cupertino firm from “using its control of app distribution to undermine cross-platform technologies such as super apps and cloud streaming apps,” as well as from “using the terms and conditions of its contracts with developers, accessory makers, consumers, or others to obtain, maintain, extend, or entrench a monopoly,” among other things.

In an official response to the launch of the suit, Apple said that if successful, it would “hinder our ability to create the kind of technology people expect from Apple—where hardware, software, and services intersect” and it would “set a dangerous precedent, empowering government to take a heavy hand in designing people’s technology.”

The United States government has recently turned a more critical eye to large tech firms operating in the country. Earlier in March, social media firm TikTok was looking for buyers in the states in order to avoid a nationwide ban that could be implemented if a bill to remove the Chinese-owned company is signed into law.

While the TikTok ban represents the US seeking to, what lawmakers believe, protect itself from foreign influence through social media, the Apple lawsuit alleges protection from a local firm that is imposing an unfair monopoly in the market. Apple joins Google in the crosshairs of the DOJ this year, as the body is set to take Google to court over its digital advertising methods in the next few months.

[Image – Photo by Trac Vu on Unsplash]


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