9th Circuit Allows App Store ‘Monopoly’ Class Action against Apple to Proceed

1 minute read
| Editorial

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling, allowing a class action suit against Apple to proceed. The nonsense suit claims Apple holds an illegal monopoly over app sales for iOS. A lower court had ruled the class had no standing to sue, but the 9th Circuit’s ruling reverses the decision, allowing the case to proceed.

Apple lawsuit

The Case

The class suing Apple argues that Apple’s illegal monopoly on apps for iOS devices is anticompetitive. The argument goes that if users could just download apps from anywhere, prices would be lower.

“The obvious solution is to compel Apple to let people shop for applications wherever they want, which would open the market and help lower prices,” Mark C. Rifkin, an attorney with Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz representing the group of iPhone users, told Reuters in an interview. “The other alternative is for Apple to pay people damages for the higher than competitive prices they’ve had to pay historically because Apple has utilized its monopoly.”

My Response

To which I say, go *&^% yourself, Mr. Rifkin. App Store prices are rock bottom as it is, and the security benefits of Apple’s walled garden are obvious and of enormous value.

If Apple had a monopoly on smartphones, I would have substantially more empathy for the principles behind this case. Principles not involving attorney fees, that is. But Apple has a minority share of said market, making “monopoly” concerns a non-issue. Users wanting an open market for apps have plenty of choices, including the malware-infested cesspool that is Android.

Things to Note

Tuesday’s ruling is about standing—as noted by Reuters—and not the merits of the case. Apple’s attorneys have so far focused on standing—meaning the right of someone to sue—and not the case itself. I don’t believe closed systems and walled gardens like Apple’s Whole Widget model have been tested in court. If someone knows better than me, please chime in below.

7 Comments Add a comment

  1. Lee Dronick

    To which I say, go *&^% yourself, Mr. Rifkin. App Store prices are rock bottom as it is, and the security benefits of Apple’s walled garden are obvious and of enormous value.

    I second that emotion.

  2. brilor

    I’ve been wondering if this would happen. Clearly, users can choose Android phones but I think the point is iPhone users have no choice where to purchase an app once they’ve purchased an iPhone. Is that enough to call it a monopoly? I’m not an attorney, so my opinion should be considered skeptically at best. It’s easy to find non-electronic products ( shoes – you can buy laces wherever you want, clothing – you can buy replacement buttons wherever ) but not sure about a similar electronic product. The competition among developers within the App Store keeps prices low and it’s hard to imagine them lower. Indie developers struggle to compete and stay in business even at these prices. Should be interesting to read the court arguments.

  3. furbies

    To which I say, go *&^% yourself, Mr. Rifkin. App Store prices are rock bottom as it is, and the security benefits of Apple’s walled garden are obvious and of enormous value.

    I second that emotion.

    And I third it.

    What a bunch of A$$hats!

  4. RonMacGuy

    Well, wasn’t there a legal decision years ago that jail breaking an iPhone was deemed legal? So, technically, iDevice owners can jail break their iDevice legally and at will and can then install whatever apps they want to from wherever they want to find them. Case dismissed.

  5. gnasher729

    No, _legally_ iDevice owners can jailbreak their devices, but _technically_ Apple does what they can to prevent this from happening (with good legitimate reasons). However, iDevice owners _can_ sell their phone and buy an Android or Windows phone and install apps from somewhere else, so still case dismissed.

  6. earthbound19

    First an attack on the ethics of the situation: do users own their iPhones, or does Apple? If Apple owns them, Apple should be allowed to decide how users use them. If people own them, people should be allowed to decide how to use them. Apple makes a compelling case that they believe Apple owns (or should have ultimate control over) all iPhones.

    This same criticism applies to the Android platform controlled by Google. Apple created the first general computing platform with absolute censorship control over what can be installed. Google created the second.

    Now the legal attack: an iPhone is a general computing device, just like for example a Windows desktop PC. Anybody can install anything they want (including operating systems not created by Microsoft) on a PC, as well as any software they want to, with or without Microsoft’s approval.

    Would you be okay with that not being the case? Would you be okay with Microsoft only allowing people to install operating systems and software which Microsoft approves of, and only through an operating system and software market that Microsoft has absolute control over?

    You would be nuts to answer yes; to grant absolute full software control over all PCs to Microsoft. It would cripple the competition and potential innovations of an open marketplace. It would arguably be anti-competitive; nobody would be able to effectively market software without undue burden of extracting approval from Microsoft, which could (as it does in Apple’s case) include the onus of paying money to even begin to develop for the platform at all.

    The situation with the iPhone is exactly analogous. Apple has absolute censorship control over what software can be marketed (and therefore, effectively, over what can be developed) for a general computing platform; moreover, developers must pay a steep annual fee for the privilege of even having their software considered, at all, for inclusion in the app store; where software is frequently rejected from developers who paid a fee to have it considered and now must at times fundamentally redesign (and therefore redevelop) their software.

    It is crystal clear that Apple is both anti-competitive and abusive of a monopoly control of operating systems and software available on their platform in this regard. It is shocking that they get away with this.

    Here’s a summary of objections the EFF has to Apple’s developer agreement, which is explicitly anti-competitive in writing; for example that devs may not jailbreak development devices; devs may not distribute rejected apps in alternative app stores: https://www.cultofmac.com/308364/electronic-frontier-foundation-fighting-apple-new-app/

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