The Information reports that the Unitest States Department of Justice (DOJ) has increased the scope of Apple’s antitrust investigation. The efforts are part of the agency’s two-years long probe of tech giants, like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, anti-competitive practices which use their dominant position to exploit small developers and stifle competition.
Earlier this year, the new chairman of the U.S Senate Judiciary antitrust Subcommittee, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar presented a new regulatory bill “Competition and Antirust Law Enforcement Reform Act of 2021” will change the country’s anti-trust laws by giving more funds to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). More importantly, it also gave the agencies power to levy penalties to fine violators up to 15% of their U.S revenues. Maybe the DOJ is now using those funds to accelerate its investigation and likely file an antitrust lawsuit against Apple.
U.S Department of Justice might file an antitrust lawsuit against Apple
As per the publisher, Apple has not steered clear of an antitrust investigation even after a favorable ruling in the Epic Games case in which Judge Rogers did not find the Cupertino tech giant’s App Store policies and standard commission rate for in-app purchases in violation of U.S. antitrust law. However, the Judge did find the company’s anti-steering policy anticompetitive and ordered it to allow developers to notify users of alternative payments methods in their apps.
At the time we believed that Apple has avoided a bigger bullet by only losing a few billion, annually but we might have spoken too soon. The DOJ has sent subpoenas to the company’s business partners, questioned its customers and competitors over its control of app distribution and payment methods on the iOS devices. The report states:
Apple so far has avoided the worst outcome in its U.S. legal battle with Epic Games, but its antitrust woes remain. In the last several months the U.S. Department of Justice has accelerated its two-year-old antitrust probe of the iPhone maker, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation, increasing the likelihood of a lawsuit.
Since summer, there has been a flurry of activity on the investigation as DOJ lawyers have asked Apple and its customers and competitors questions about how the company maintains its strict control over the iPhone, the people said. That includes a new round of subpoenas sent to Apple’s business partners over the summer, according to people familiar with the matter.
Developers like Spotify, Tile, Epic Games, and others complained that the 30% commission rate for in-app purchases is unfair and anti-competitive, so Apple reduced it to 15% – 30% based on a developer’s annual earnings. Recently, it also changes its developers’ guidelines to allow developers to communicate alternative payments methods via email, messages, and other means.
Even with these changes, it is likely that the agency will file an antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant which will again put the App Store at risk by seeking to open the digital marketplace to sideloading, at the end of the investigation.