If You Buy Apps on the Apple App Store, the Tech Giant Could Owe You Money

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Apple App Store Class Action Lawsuit: Consumers Get The Chance To Challenge The Tech Giant In Court

Millions of people rely on their Apple devices each day for an array of uses, including communicating, accessing transportation, and moving money, and many of those uses are provided through applications downloaded in the tech-giant’s Apple App Store. For more than 12 years, Apple users have challenged the company in court, alleging that its store creates a monopoly over app purchases that has led to higher prices for consumers. 

This month, a California judge agreed to give those consumers their day in court by certifying a class action lawsuit for people who have spent more than $10 on purchases in the Apple App Store. The decision could leave the company on the hook for billions of dollars in payouts. 

Alleged monopoly has national and international implications

The class action lawsuit, filed by consumers in the Northern District of California, alleges that the company has limited competition by banning the sale of iPhone apps outside of its App Store, and therefore raised prices for the people downloading apps, Reuters reported

The certification of the lawsuit comes as Apple announced in February that it hit an all time revenue record for services and another for installed devices, which number 2.2 billion (more than a quarter of the globe’s population!) Now, it could be on the hook to pay more than 10 million users who have spent more than $10 on in-app and on-app purchases. 

Lawyer for the consumers Mark Rifkin told Reuters he was "extremely pleased" with U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers decision to certify the case, and estimated the class of consumers had rung up "billions of dollars in damages." Rogers had declined to certify the class action in 2022, but changed her mind after the class was narrowed to include users who have spent $10 or more.

What does the App Store do?

The Apple App Store, launched in 2008, lets users browse and download all the applications available on Apple devices. It is a hub where all the most popular apps, including those focused on social networking, dating, productivity, financial management, and much more, are available. 

While many of the apps are free to download, a number have in-app purchases or cost outright to download. Apple requires developers to pay a 30 percent commission on app sales, which consumers say raises prices for the end-user. Apple, however, has said its App Store and commission rules are for security and reliability reasons. According to Apple, its top 10 most popular free apps in 2023 were:

  1. Temu: Shop Like a Billionaire
  2. CapCut - Video Editor
  3. Max: Stream HBO, TV, & Movies
  4. Threads, an Instagram app
  5. TikTok
  6. Instagram
  7. Google
  8. YouTube: Watch, Listen, Stream
  9. WhatsApp Messenger
  10. Gmail - Email by Google

Apple has been challenged before

It’s not the first time Apple has been challenged over its control of apps through the App Store, with the EU and US regulators questioning its tactics. In January, the New York Times reported the Justice Department was close to filing a huge antitrust case against the company. 

Epic Games, the creator of the popular Fortnite app, even challenged the company in 2020 by including an unauthorized payment option in the Fortnite app. The decision kicked off an epic court fight that was also overseen by Judge Rogers. While Apple largely won out in the antitrust lawsuit, Rogers ruled that, under California state law, Apple could not block developers from telling customers about cheaper prices available outside the App Store. Politico reported that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney called it “a sad outcome for all developers.” 

“The court battle to open iOS to competing stores and payments is lost in the United States,” he said. Appeals from both parties led to a Court of Appeals decision that sided with Rogers. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case. 

A change in store

In January, Apple announced that app developers would be able to use third party stores on its devices to distribute apps BUT that will only happen in the EU. In a press release, Apple Fellow Phil Schiller said the changes complied with the Digital Markets Act’s requirements in the European Union, “while helping to protect EU users from the unavoidable increased privacy and security threats this regulation brings.” “Our priority remains creating the best, most secure possible experience for our users in the EU and around the world.” 

If you are an Apple App Store user who has spent more than $10 on purchasing apps or add-ons within an app, you could be entitled to a payout. 

The Apple App Store Antitrust class action lawsuit is In re Apple iPhone Antitrust Litigation, Case No. 11-06714 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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