App Store users can bring antitrust lawsuit against Apple

A court decision will let a group of iPhone users sue Apple for monopolizing the sale of iPhone apps.

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A group of iPhone users wants to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Apple.

Photo by Chesnot, Getty Images

If you've ever grumbled about the App Store being your only way to buy apps for your iPhone, you're not the only one.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals decided Thursday that iPhone app purchasers can sue Apple on the claim that the App Store monopolizes the iPhone apps market, leading to higher prices for apps.

The App Store, launched nine years ago in the wake of the original iPhone, has been a driving force for Apple's sales of both devices and the commission-generating programs and services made for them. It's still going gangbusters: Apple said that New Year's Day 2017 was the online store's biggest single day ever, racking up nearly $240 million in sales.

In 2016, the App Store offered 2.2 million apps, an increase of more than 20 percent from the year before.

The circuit court's decision brings new life to a challenge that was filed in 2012.

Apple did not immediately respond to our request for comment, but has argued in the past that it basically rents out space to developers in the App Store. It gets a percentage of the revenues and developers get to sell their apps on the platform. This new decision does not treat the App Store as if it were a mall.

Mark C. Rifkin, an attorney representing the iPhone users involved, told CNET, "We are very pleased with the 9th Circuit's decision that iPhone consumers are direct purchasers on the App Store."

In an earlier interview with Reuters, Rifkin had said that possible outcomes, if the suit is successful, could include Apple allowing users to get apps where they please or paying damages to users.

Update Jan. 17: Added comment from lawyer Mark C. Rifkin.

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