Supreme Court ruling could threaten Apple’s 30 percent app commission

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The company relied on a Supreme Court precedent from 1977 which said only "direct purchasers" may sue a company under the antitrust laws.

"If a retailer has engaged in unlawful monopolistic conduct that has caused consumers to pay higher-than-competitive prices, it does not matter how the retailer structured its relationship with an upstream manufacturer or supplier". But if the plaintiffs win at trial, Mark Rifkin, a lawyer representing them, said that "the overcharges paid by consumers since Apple's monopoly began will be measured in the billions of dollars".

"Apple's line-drawing does not make a lot of sense, other than as a way to gerrymander Apple out of this and similar lawsuits", the opinion said. Apple fell 6.1 per cent to US$185.40 at 1:29 p.m.in NY.

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Apple could sidestep the controversy, according to Lopatka, by allowing apps to be purchased through certified outside parties. Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with the court's four liberal judges - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - in the ruling. Apple argued the consumers were indirect purchasers, because any overcharge would be passed on to them by developers.

Robert Pepper and other consumers filed the class-action lawsuit in 2011, but it was struck down.

"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?"

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Had Apple been allowed to set the terms of the legal fight, the court said, it would have hindered the ability of consumers to seek relief from alleged monopolists. That potential massive loss in revenue is behind the 5.6 percent drop in Apple's share price this morning, though we note tech stocks in general are down a few per cent today because someone's been tweeting.

"It doesn't change how much apps cost, what Apple charges its developers, or whether consumers can load apps from outside the App Store", said Techsponential lead analyst Avi Greengart.

The former judge recounted that Kavanaugh had said during his controversial confirmation hearings previous year that he was "not a monolithic anything" and that he listened to the facts and then decided how the law should apply. It also claimed that allowing the case to proceed could pose a threat to the burgeoning e-commerce segment of the U.S. economy. The suit claimed that consumers have been harmed by Apple's practice of taking a cut of sales because the company doesn't allow users to download apps from any platform other than its official App Store.

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