Supreme Court rules that consumers can sue Apple for App Store practices

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Supreme Court rules that consumers can sue Apple for App Store practices

Court precedent says that indirect purchasers who are at least two steps removed in a distribution chain can not sue.

"The sole question presented at this early stage of the case is whether these consumers are proper plaintiffs for this kind of antitrust suit", the majority opinion reads. If Apple is found to be a monopolist they may have to refund billions to consumers or may even be forced to open up the iPhone to alternate app stores.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's other pick, wrote the dissent for four conservative justices in the Apple case.

Apple is among several manufacturers and retailers likely to be affected by escalating tariffs being imposed by the US, which have increased the cost of a range of consumer products.

"So if the commission is in fact a monopolistic overcharge, the developers are the parties who are directly injured by it. Plaintiffs can be injured only if the developers are able and choose to pass on the overcharge to them in the form of higher app prices that the developers alone control".

The case is Apple Inc. v Pepper, 17-204.

Tom's Hardware has reached out to Apple for comment, but did not receive an immediate response. The App Store is the only way to legally purchase iPhone apps, but Apple charges developers an annual $99 fee to operate on the digital marketplace.

The opinion written by the newest court member, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said consumers had a right to pursue their case because they have a direct relationship with Apple. Apple had argued that a Supreme Court ruling allowing the case to proceed could pose a threat to e-commerce, a rapidly expanding segment of the US economy worth hundreds of billions of dollars in annual sales.

The dispute hinged in part on how the justices would apply a decision the court made in 1977 to the claims against Apple. It has moreover claimed that by paying its commission, developers are "buying a package of services which include distribution and software and intellectual property and testing".

The plaintiffs, including lead plaintiff Robert Pepper of Chicago, filed the suit in a California federal court in 2011, claiming Apple's monopoly leads to inflated prices compared to if apps were available from other sources.

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