Department of Justice Goes After Apple’s Grip on Smartphone Market

Antitrust lawsuit questions Apple’s handling of apps and products that might challenge its dominance.

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Editor

March 22, 2024

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Apple are having a difference of opinion in the form of an antitrust lawsuit announced on Thursday. The DOJ argues Apple monopolizes the smartphone market, affecting apps, products, and developers. According to reports, Apple warns a dangerous precedent might be set if the government has a hand in influencing the design of technology in the private sector.

To talk about potential impact from this case, Henry Hauser, antitrust counsel with Perkins Coie and a former DOJ trial attorney in the antitrust division, visits the DOS Won’t Hunt podcast.

The suit focuses on Apple’s handling of and its stance on the apps and services used through the iPhone. What is Apple really being accused of? And what sort of change or remedy is being sought, at least based on what the DOJ has presented?

At the outset, I think it’s important to point out what is not illegal under US antitrust law. It’s not illegal to have a monopoly. It’s not illegal to be a monopolist. So, our antitrust laws encourage firms to go out and compete for every sale, every percent of market share as aggressively as they can. What is illegal is the act of monopolizing to obtain or maintain a monopoly through some sort of exclusionary conduct that harms the competitive process. And that’s what Apple is being accused of doing.

Related:TikTok, Congress, and Digital Battles in Geopolitics

It’s being accused of making it harder and more expensive for users and developers to switch away from the iPhone platform and ecosystem. At the core of these allegations are that Apple suppresses certain apps, products, and services that threaten Apple’s iPhone dominance. And these apps, these products, in DOJ’s view, if they were left unhindered, would make it easier for users, easier for developers to switch away from that Apple ecosystem.

Listen to the full podcast here.

About the Author(s)

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth

Senior Editor

Joao-Pierre S. Ruth covers tech policy, including ethics, privacy, legislation, and risk; fintech; code strategy; and cloud & edge computing for InformationWeek. He has been a journalist for more than 25 years, reporting on business and technology first in New Jersey, then covering the New York tech startup community, and later as a freelancer for such outlets as TheStreet, Investopedia, and Street Fight. Follow him on Twitter: @jpruth.

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