The Supreme Court issued a preliminary win Monday morning for consumers who challenged Apple in an antitrust case. Apple argued to the Supreme Court that the litigants weren’t entitled to suit because they weren’t Apple’s direct consumers. But a narrow majority sided with the plaintiffs, ruling the case can continue.
A class of iPhone App Store purchasers alleged that Apple created an illegal monopoly over the worldwide distribution of iPhone apps. They argued that even though Apple did not create most of the iPhone applications available on its App Store, Apple approves and distributes all available apps on its store. Apple charges a 30% commission for all apps sold through its App Store, and the consumers claimed the fee was being illegally passed on to them.
The potential class sought damages against Apple (for its allegedly illegal commission fee) that are available under the Clayton Act. However, Apple argued the plaintiffs were not entitled to file suit.
The developer of the app—not Apple—is responsible for setting the price of the app and collects the money from the purchase. Past U.S. Supreme Court precedent (Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois (1977)) bars indirect consumers from bringing Clayton Act violations from suppliers.
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