Justice Department Sues Apple Over Alleged iPhone Monopoly

AG Merrick Garland accused the Big Tech giant of “anticompetitive conduct” in a press conference announcing a landmark antitrust lawsuit

The federal government is suing Apple.

The landmark civil suit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, accuses the Big Tech behemoth of violating antitrust laws through its alleged monopolization of the smartphone market. The DOJ alleges Apple has met competitive threats by “imposing a series of shapeshifting rules and restrictions in its App Store guidelines and developer agreements that would allow Apple to extract higher fees, thwart innovation, offer a less secure or degraded user experience, and throttle competitive alternatives.”

The company has essentially “locked in users and developers,” the government argues, by “reinforc[ing] and deepen[ing] the competitive moat around the iPhone.”

One example of Apple’s “anti-competitive conduct,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press conference on Thursday, is how it makes it more difficult to message users with non-Apple phones. iPhone users who have tried to include Android users on a group text are well aware of this struggle.

The complaint goes into detail about the issue. “If an iPhone user messages a non-iPhone user in Apple messages, the text appears not only as a green bubble, but incorporates limited functionality,” it reads. “The conversation is not encrypted. Videos are pixelated and grainy and users cannot edit messages or see typing indicators.”

The DOJ also notes that in 2022 when Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked if the company would fix iPhone-to-Android messaging, with the questioner complaining that they can’t send their mom certain videos,” Cook responded: “Buy your mom and iPhone.”

“If left unchallenged, Apple will only continue to strengthen its smartphone monopoly,” Garland added in a statement. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce antitrust laws that protect consumers from higher prices and fewer choices. That is the Justice Department’s legal obligation and what the American people expect and deserve.”

Apple responded on Thursday by claiming the lawsuit is “wrong on the facts and the law.”

“This lawsuit threatens who we are and the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets,” company spokesman Fred Sainz said in a statement. “If successful, it would hinder our ability to create the kind of technology people expect from Apple — where hardware, software, and services intersect.”

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Apple has long been under government scrutiny over monopoly issues. The company was fined nearly $2 billion by the European Union just a few weeks ago for its efforts to stifle music streaming competition.

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Ryan Bort