A PYMNTS Company

US Antitrust Case Against Apple’s App Store Exclusivity Gains Momentum

 |  January 2, 2024

The United States antitrust case against Apple’s App Store exclusivity is gaining traction, with the Department of Justice signaling that it is “firing on all cylinders.” The head of the DOJ unit responsible for policing breaches of competition law suggests that Apple may soon be compelled to allow third-party app stores and/or sideloading not only in the United States but also in Europe.

For years, antitrust regulators have scrutinized Apple’s tight control over third-party iPhone apps, creating a monopoly where consumers and developers have only one avenue—the App Store—to buy or sell iPhone apps. Apple’s dominance extends to setting its own terms, including a 15% or 30% commission, terms that both developers and consumers are obligated to accept. Such control has been widely criticized and is deemed by many regulators as a violation of competition law.

The European Union has already taken a stance on this matter with the Digital Markets Act (DMA), asserting that the App Store falls under its purview. Consequently, Apple is mandated to allow competition in the iPhone app market. To comply with the DMA, Apple is expected to open the door to competing app stores on the iPhone, with a deadline for compliance set for April of the following year. Apple has reportedly been working on strategies to adhere to these regulations for at least a year, if not longer.

Read more: Apple Asks 9th Circ. To Stay Anti-Steering Injunction Pending SCOTUS Appeal

Parallelly, the US Department of Justice has been conducting its own investigation into Apple’s App Store exclusivity for several years. Anticipation is high among competition experts, who expect the US case to mirror the European conclusion, emphasizing that Apple must permit either third-party app stores, sideloading of iPhone apps, or potentially both.

The implications of such a ruling could be monumental, transforming the landscape of the iOS app ecosystem and providing users and developers with increased choices. The outcome may not only reshape Apple’s approach to its App Store policies but could also set a precedent for other tech giants facing similar antitrust scrutiny.

As the legal proceedings unfold, all eyes will be on the Department of Justice, awaiting its decision and the potential ripple effects that may reverberate through the tech industry. Apple, with its vast user base and influential position in the market, is likely to face a transformative moment that could reshape the dynamics of app distribution on iOS devices.

Source: 9 to 5 Mac