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Feds are thinking about an antitrust case against Apple

Feds are thinking about an antitrust case against Apple


The Department of Justice is working on a draft filing

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

So far, the biggest tech antitrust cases have focused on Facebook and Google — but Apple may soon be joining the pack. Politico is reporting that the Department of Justice is in the early stages of drafting an antitrust case against Apple, alleging that the company “abused its market power to stifle smaller tech companies, including app developers and competing hardware makers.”

It would be the first such case against Apple by a US federal agency, although European antitrust regulators have raised similar cases over the company’s App Store fees and the iPhone’s treatment of tap-to-pay technology. The company has also fended off a number of civil cases from rival companies — most notably, the App Store challenge from Epic Games, which ended in a frustrating stalemate for antitrust advocates.

Politico makes clear that the Justice Department has not yet committed to any action against Apple, and officials may still decide the case is not worth pursuing. Even if the Justice Department continues the case, it could be years before it is publicly filed. But the decision to draft the case suggests it’s a serious and ongoing effort — and gives Apple a lot to be nervous about going forward.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The news comes amid a range of federal cases taking on the power of major tech companies to varying success. In July, the Federal Trade Commission sued to block Meta’s acquisition of the popular VR game studio Within — although it will take a court ruling to determine whether the commission can successfully block the merger.

In 2020, the Department of Justice filed antitrust charges against Google for alleged monopolization of the search and display ad businesses. The Wall Street Journal reported that Google offered to spin off its ad-auction businesses into a separate company as a way to settle the case, although the exact status of the negotiations remains unclear.