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Supreme Court Allows Antitrust App Store Case to Move Forward

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that an antitrust case against Apple can move forward, rejecting Apple’s argument that consumers were not the right plaintiffs to pursue the case. The case, Apple v. Pepper, challenges Apple’s alleged practice of requiring developers to pay a 30% fixed commission on all app purchases made through the Apple app store.

“Today, more and more of consumers’ purchases go through platforms, where sellers and buyers meet virtually via technology, instead of in brick-and-mortar stores. These technologies are evolving fast, and today’s decision shows that antitrust law is — as it should be — flexible enough to address allegations that companies may misuse their market strength in novel ways,” said Avery Gardiner, CDT’s Senior Fellow for Competition, Data & Power. She continued, “The Court’s decision today allows the plaintiffs and their lawyers to start working on the actual facts instead of being stuck in procedural muck. The more we can learn about the actual impact on competition of high tech companies’ policies, the better.”

The Court rejected Apple’s contention that consumers were not direct purchasers because they purchased apps from the developers and only indirectly through Apple. Under the Court’s 1977 Illinois Brick case, only direct purchasers have standing to sue in antitrust cases. Justice Kavanaugh authored the opinion, and Justice Gorsuch wrote the dissent.