May 23, 2024 2 min read

Apple hits back at competition regulators in EU and US

Apple continues to fight the regulators that have accused it of anticompetitive conduct over its App Store rules. In the EU it has formally appealed a €1.8 billion fine and in the US it has started the process of seeking to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Department Of Justice

Apple hits back at competition regulators in EU and US

Lawyers working for Apple have made new filings in relation to allegations of anticompetitive conduct that have been made by regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. 

In Europe, it has filed an appeal against the European Commission’s recent ruling over its in-app payment policies, which stemmed from a complaint made by Spotify. And in the US, it has made a new filing in response to legal action instigated by the Department Of Justice

In March, the European Commission fined Apple €1.8 billion over its App Store rules that stop app developers from sign-posting payment options that circumvent Apple’s own transactions platform. It was also ordered to change those rules, which it technically did, although in a way that Spotify says has done nothing to address the issues raised by the EC. 

Court records now show that Apple formally began an appeal over that ruling with the European Union’s Luxembourg-based General Court earlier this month. 

Specifics about the appeal are not yet known. Though Reuters notes that it could take years to get a ruling from the EU General Court, and then - when that ruling is inevitably appealed to the EU Court Of Justice - a few more years to get a final resolution. 

It was also in March that the US Department Of Justice sued Apple over various allegations that the tech giant is violating competition - or antitrust - laws. Although that litigation covers a range of grievances, companies like Spotify will be hoping that it ultimately forces changes to the App Store rules that restrict how app developers communicate to and transact with their users.  

Earlier this week, Apple’s lawyers wrote to the District Court in New Jersey requesting a pre-motion conference prior to the submission of a formal motion seeking dismissal of the DoJ’s lawsuit. Setting out its initial arguments, the letter insists “this case lies well beyond the outer limits of antitrust law”.

It adds that the US Supreme Court has “repeatedly held that the type of conduct at the core of this case - namely, Apple’s decisions about how and whether to grant third parties access to its platform - does not give rise to liability as a matter of law”. 

It also argues that the DoJ’s lawsuit fails to “connect the restrictions it challenges to any anticompetitive effects in the smartphone market”, while also stating that “far from being a monopolist, Apple faces fierce competition from well-established rivals”. 

As with the legal battle in the EU, this case is likely to drag on too. Meanwhile, Spotify et al will pursue other lobbying and legal channels, given they really want to force substantial changes to the rules around in-app communications and payments sooner rather than later.

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