Justices to hear antitrust case over sale of iPhone apps

Apple is at the Supreme Court to defend the way it sells apps for iPhones against claims by consumers that the company has unfairly monopolized the market.

The justices are hearing arguments today in Apple's effort to end an antitrust lawsuit that could force the iPhone maker to cut the 30 percent commission it charges software developers whose apps are sold exclusively through Apple's App Store. A judge could triple the compensation to consumers under antitrust law if Apple ultimately loses the lawsuit.

Apple says it doesn't own the apps or sell them. That's the responsibility of software developers.

But the lawsuit says the Cupertino, California-based company exerts a lot of control over the process, including a requirement that prices end in .99. And iPhone apps are only available through the App Store.

The issue for the Supreme Court is whether Apple can even be sued about the apps, given prior high court rulings in antitrust cases. In other cases, the justices have said there must be a direct relationship between the seller and a party complaining about unfair, anticompetitive pricing.

 

Dawn Kamber