iPhone users may sue Apple as litigants claim the App Store is a monopoly.
People who purchased $300-$800 phones can now complain, in court, that a $1.99 app is too expensive. They’d prefer to pay $0.99 in another market.
And because the users do not have the option of entering that other market with their $500 phone, the existing market must be a monopoly.
What if I’m too cheap to pay $2.98 for a family size bag of chips?
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court published its opinion in Apple Inc. v. Pepper.
Axios had a good explanation of the case.
SCOTUS reporter, Amy Howe, tweeted back in November that oral arguments seemed to be in favor of the iPhone users.
She said, “Not entirely clear, but after 60 minutes of argument in antitrust case brought against Apple by iPhone users, looks like iPhone users could have 5 votes to allow their lawsuit to go forward. Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to be the only clear vote for Apple; others harder to read.”
She was right. Justice Kavanaugh wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
Before you freak out, I don’t think all the grousing about Kavanaugh is warranted. This case isn’t really all that ideological.
The big question, whether the app store is a monopoly wasn’t even addressed. The only question was whether iPhone users could sue. And it all revolves around who is “any person” and “pass-on” theories.
It’s a pretty dull case actually.
But I’m irritated with the message it sends. Nobody forced anyone to buy an iPhone and submit to their app store configuration. You made that choice freely and paid hundreds of dollars to do so.
And while certain libertarians and conservatives are taking the opportunity to say “I told you so” regarding Kavanaugh, it is possible to disagree with him and not jump right to “Kavanaugh is stealth David Souter.”
Gorsuch’s dissent explains why letting this case go forward in favor of the iPhone users may prove to be problematic. He says,
“Will the court hear testimony to determine the market power of each app developer, how each set its prices, and what it might have charged consumers for apps if Apple’s commission had been lower? Will the court also consider expert testimony analyzing how market factors might have influenced developers’ capacity and willingness to pass on Apple’s alleged monopoly overcharge? And will the court then somehow extrapolate its findings to all of the tens of thousands of developers who sold apps through the App Store at different prices and times over the course of years?”
While the Supreme Court has all these tests for Anti-Trust law and the law itself is multifaceted, I am stunned by the lack of common sense among those filing suit. Legally, I’m probably very wrong, but that is why law in infuriating. We codify everything and give stupidity a formal channel to express itself.
I’m sure that’s not a justification for reaching a decision in a supreme court case, but it makes perfect sense.
Kavanaugh and the liberal justices can be convinced that the text of the law requires a certain outcome and I don’t have the capacity to disagree with them, especially when the text is pretty clear. But there is also this competing notion that the result of their correct reading may render an impossible standard for the court to address in the future. This seems like Gorsuch’s point. Would congress lead the court to a place where the court’s job goes beyond interpreting law and enters the territory described by Gorsuch?
Fortunately, I don’t have to answer that question.
Any idiot knows that if you buy an Apple product, you get the app store.
If you don’t like it, don’t buy an Apple product.