Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who faced sexual misconduct allegations in September 2018, sided with liberal justices, rejecting Apple's claim that iPhone consumers can not sue the company because the Apple Store is merely a middleman between users and those who produce and sell apps.
In its defense, Apple has been arguing the company doesn't set the prices on the App Store; instead, the iPhone owners should only be able to sue the individual sellers on the platform.
The Google Play store, Apple's chief rival to the App Store, takes a similar cut of up to 30 per cent from developers for app sales. The lawsuit, Apple v. Pepper, saw four iPhone owners sue the Cupertino company, arguing that the App Store allows Apple to unfairly control software prices by virtue of it being the only official place to download titles. "In other words, Apple as retailer pockets a 30% commission on every app sale", said Kavanaugh, one of President Donald Trump's two high court appointees.
This verdict is not going to have an immediate major impact on Apple.
Therefore, the Court held that after taking Illinois Brick into consideration, iPhone users were direct purchasers who can sue Apple for the alleged monopolization.
"Once you allow iPhone users to get apps elsewhere, the case disappears", he said. While Apple has refuted these claims, it seems that the drive to grow its own presence on the App Store could lead to greater conflict with third-parties in the future.
Truly, the App Store was the X factor - as in, it made the the iPhone 100x more useful. Apple argued the consumers were indirect purchasers, because any overcharge would be passed on to them by developers. Most apps are made by independent developers who have contracts with Apple.
Naturally, Apple had tried to contest the judgement, referring to a 1977 Supreme Court ruling that only consumers who directly purchase products are allowed to collect damages for overpricing.
"A claim that a monopolistic retailer (here, Apple) has used its monopoly to overcharge consumers is a classic antitrust claim", Kavanaugh continued in the decision. According to insiders, Apple intends to bring more app development in house and throw down the gauntlet to external developers who now create apps for the firm's devices. Now, this doesn't mean that Apple violated antitrust laws.
The best example of the odd app market dynamics came when the makers of mega-game Fortnite, Epic, decided not to launch its game app through the Google Play store because it didn't want to pay the 30 per cent tax.
Now the Supreme Court decision raises the spectre of the legal dominoes falling in a way that could require Apple to slash its commissions or even abandon them.