The United States hits Apple with a historic antitrust lawsuit, accusing the tech giant of stifling competition

Washington Apple, one of the world's most valuable and influential companies, illegally engaged in anticompetitive behavior in an attempt to build a “moat around its smartphone monopoly” and maximize its profits at the expense of consumers, the Justice Department alleged in a massive antitrust lawsuit filed Thursday. .

In a complaint filed in federal district court in New Jersey, the Justice Department accused the company of using app development rules, iPhone features and devices that customers use every day — including iMessage, Apple Wallet and smart watches — to thwart competition and expand its business. By charging higher prices. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia joined the Department of Justice as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“Apple has maintained its monopoly power in the smartphone market not only by staying ahead of the competition in terms of advantages, but by violating federal antitrust law,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in statements at the Department of Justice headquarters. “Consumers should not have to pay higher prices because companies are violating the law.”

Apple antitrust lawsuit

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the antitrust case against Apple at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on March 21, 2024.

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

in Complaint of 88 pages, government lawyers alleged that Apple violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, including by using “a series of changing rules and restrictions in the App Store Guidelines and developer agreements that would allow Apple to extract higher fees, thwart innovation, and provide a less secure user experience.” “or deteriorated.” and stifling competitive alternatives.”

Specifically, investigators alleged that the tech giant — which generated nearly $400 billion in revenue last year — outmaneuvered its smaller rivals by blocking the expansion of so-called “super apps” that offer identical services across devices; disable messaging formats and capabilities between Apple and non-Apple devices; And monopolizing the use of tap-to-pay functionality on iPhones for Apple Wallet only.

Users have long been frustrated with inconsistencies when sending messages between Apple and non-Apple products, including lower media quality, diminished editing capabilities, and even different colors of the messages themselves. Garland said these issues were examples of users' degrading experience for Apple to entice them to stay in the company's ecosystem.

“As any iPhone user who has seen a green text message or received a small, grainy video can attest, Apple's anti-competitive behavior also includes making it more difficult for iPhone users to message users of non-Apple products,” he said. . “It does this by reducing the functionality of its own messaging app, and reducing the functionality of third-party messaging apps.”

However, Apple's alleged anti-competitive practices did not stop there, according to investigators. They are also alleged to have stifled the use of non-Apple smartwatches by limiting how users interact with them on iPhone It used cloud streaming, location services and web browsers on iPhones to eliminate smaller competitors.

“Importantly, Apple’s anticompetitive behavior not only limits competition in the smartphone market, but also reverberates across industries affected by these restrictions, including financial services, fitness, gaming, social media, news media, entertainment, and more.” The alleged one. “Unless Apple’s anti-competitive and exclusionary behavior is stopped, it will likely expand and entrench its iPhone monopoly into other markets and parts of the economy.”

The government asked the court to order Apple to stop its alleged anti-competitive activity and stop undermining cross-platform services and devices. The plaintiffs said the court must take action “to restore competitive conditions in the markets affected by Apple's illegal conduct.”

In response to the lawsuit, Apple said in a statement that the lawsuit “threatens our identity and the principles that distinguish Apple products in highly competitive markets.”

“If successful, it would hamper our ability to create the kind of technology people expect from Apple — where hardware, software, and services intersect. It would also set a dangerous precedent, enabling the government to take a strong hand in designing people's technology.” The company said. He added: “We believe that this lawsuit is wrong in terms of facts and law, and we will defend it vigorously.”

Apple isn't the first tech giant to face scrutiny from the Justice Department's antitrust division. Over the past few years, Google has faced two lawsuits — one during the Trump administration and one during President Biden’s administration — that The alleged one Monopolistic business practices.

Jo Ling Kent and Andres Triay contributed reporting.

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