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US sues Apple over 'smartphone monopoly'

March 21, 2024

The Justice Department charged that Apple "will only continue to strengthen its smartphone monopoly" if it was left unchallenged. The company said in response that the lawsuit could set a dangerous precedent.

Apple phones at a store
The Justice Department said Apple's operating system drove up costs for consumersImage: Dycj/HPIC/dpa/picture alliance

The US Department of Justice filed suit against Apple on Thursday, accusing it of monopolizing the smartphone market.

"Consumers should not have to pay higher prices because companies violate the antitrust laws," US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. "If left unchallenged, Apple will only continue to strengthen its smartphone monopoly."

What else do we know about the lawsuit?

The civil suit, joined by 15 states and the District of Columbia, charged Apple with using its dominance in the smartphone ecosystem to get more money from consumers, developers, content creators, artists, publishers, small businesses and merchants.

The lawsuit said it was focused on “freeing smartphone markets from Apple's anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct and restoring competition to lower smartphone prices for consumers, reducing fees for developers, and preserving innovation for the future."

"Apple repeatedly chooses to make its products worse for consumers to prevent competition from emerging," the suit said.

The case centers around Apple's app store, which sets strict conditions on developers seeking to reach iPhone users, who number around 136 million in the United States.

The lawsuit is also examining the Apple Wallet, which is the only application allowed on the iPhone to make tap payments in stores.

Prosecutors also accuse Apple of making it harder for users to interact with people using Android phones in Apple's messaging app.

How did Apple respond to the lawsuit?

In response, Apple said the suit would threaten the company's ability to meet consumers' demands.

"This lawsuit threatens who we are and the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets," it said. "If successful, it would hinder our ability to create the kind of technology people expect from Apple — where hardware, software, and services intersect."

The company called the lawsuit "wrong on the facts and the law" and said it would "vigorously defend against it."

Apple said the lawsuit could "set a dangerous precedent, empowering government to take a heavy hand in designing people's technology."

Apple faced multiple antitrust probes

This US suit is not the first antitrust proceeding to be launched against Apple.

Earlier this month, the European Union fined Apple $1.8 billion after it found that the company had been unfairly favoring its own music streaming service over those of its rivals.

Apple has also faced antitrust probes in Japan and Korea, as well as lawsuits from rivals such as Epic Games.

sdi/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)