Not long after the Supreme Court green-lighted a lawsuit against Apple over its allegedly monopolistic App Store, two iOS app developers have hit the tech giant with a similar suit in which they allege the tech heavyweight has violated federal antitrust law by squelching any competition for a platform on which developers may sell their apps.
According to the case, the only way developers can make their apps available to iPhone users is through the App Store. “They have no choice in the matter,” the complaint reads, “but not because Apple built an app store that beat all comers fair and square.” Instead, the case attests, Apple has unlawfully maintained a monopoly over the market for iOS apps and in-app product purchases, thinly justifying its position by purporting to be “uniquely qualified to ensure the safety and device-compatibility of apps.”
Apple’s market power, the lawsuit continues, allows it to charge developers a supra-competitive 30 percent commission on the sale of their apps and in-app products, as well as a $99 annual fee to list their products in the App Store—which the suit points out is the only place iPhone users are able to buy them.
To further bolster its profits, Apple, the case goes on, dictates the price points at which developers may sell their apps, allowing nothing less than $.99 and only price points ending with $.99, the suit says. “This maximizes Apple’s profit by ensuring that it collects roughly $.30 on every paid sale,” the complaint states, adding that Apple’s ruling out of prices ending in $.49, for example, generally forces developers to up their prices and generate more profits for the tech company.
The lawsuit goes on to argue that the sheer size of the App Store, with more than two million available apps, inevitably causes “huge numbers” of apps to never be seen by iPhone users. One of the plaintiffs, for example, claims his baby naming app can only be found after scrolling through “pages and pages” of search results for “baby naming,” well after the point a “typical, reasonable consumer” would have stopped scrolling.
Citing statements made in the recent Supreme Court case, the lawsuit notes that Apple itself has admitted that app developers have standing to sue over antitrust claims. Apple reportedly argued before the high court that the software developers, and not the consumers on whose behalf the case had been filed, “are the ones who have antitrust standing” because they were the “direct purchasers and ‘consumers’ of the allegedly monopolized distribution services.”
The lawsuit looks to cover a proposed class of all developers of any iOS app or in-app product that was sold for a non-zero price in the App Store.