Seattle/ Politics & Govt
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Published on June 13, 2024
Attorneys General and DOJ Charge Apple with Creating Unlawful Monopoly, Seeking to Liberate Smartphone JungleSource: Unsplash/ Daniel Romero

In a significant move against tech giant Apple, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has joined forces with the U.S. Department of Justice and a bipartisan coalition of 20 attorneys general. The lawsuit they're backing accuses Apple of wielding its dominant position to create an unlawful monopoly in the smartphone market. This legal action aims to dismantle the company's stronghold, which is believed to stifle innovation and inflate prices, denying consumers the freedom they ought to have over personal and financial digital choices.

Filed on March 21 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the suit claims Apple has utilized its control to limit consumer choices dramatically, such as dictating the only digital wallet iPhone users can employ. By steering users towards its proprietary products and services, the company not only lords over the user's choice but also the profits that ensue. With an overwhelming grip on the performance smartphone market, which Apple claims to exceed 70%, the loyalty of its users is reinforced by prohibitive measures ensuring that iPhone owners are less likely to switch to other brands, with 90% reportedly replacing their old iPhones with new ones instead of switching to competitors.

"An open marketplace encourages competition and creativity,” Ferguson stated, as per the press release on Washington State Attorney General's office website. He argues that Apple's dominance comes at a cost to users, developers, and businesses. The lawsuit seeks an order to stop Apple from undermining technologies that directly compete with it, aiming to throw open the doors to a more level playing field.

The lawsuit outlines several ways in which Apple has allegedly violated antitrust laws, including undermining third-party messaging apps and blocking the development of cloud-streaming services. The limitations placed on the functionality of third-party smartwatches illustrate the depths at which the user experience is handcuffed to the iPhone ecosystem, making it difficult for other watches that may have desirable features to be fully functional with the iPhone. Apple, meanwhile, positions itself as the guardian of privacy and security, despite the accusation that these concerns are secondary when financial benefits are at stake.

With a net revenue that scaled the heights of $383 billion in fiscal year 2023, Apple's economic clout is unmatched, outearning the GDPs of over 100 countries, as the lawsuit points out. Assistant Attorney General Lumi Nodit is slated to handle the case for Washington, navigating the complex legal terrain that Apple has allegedly designed to safeguard its monopoly at the cost of the wider market and, more importantly, consumer choice. The far-reaching consequences of Apple's chokehold on the market are now under scrutiny, and the result of this lawsuit could mark a significant turn in the ongoing battle between big tech and regulatory forces.