Apple targeted in US DOJ antitrust probe

Cracking down on Big Tech has been one of the rare bipartisan agreements between Democrats and Republicans.

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The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is gearing up to sue Apple over alleged antitrust violations. The legal move marks a continuation of bipartisan efforts to scrutinise Big Tech, with investigations into Google, Facebook, Amazon, and now Apple occurring during both the Trump and Biden administrations.

While the specifics of the charges are unclear, complaints from hardware device makers like Tile have centred around Apple’s alleged restrictions on accessing iPhone features for competing products. Tile, known for its intelligent trackers, has long argued that Apple limits their capabilities while introducing similar products, like AirTags, which were released years after Tile’s offerings.

One central point of contention revolves around Apple’s control over certain iPhone features, such as the chip enabling contactless payments, which can only be accessed through Apple’s own Apple Pay service. Apple contended that such restrictions are necessary for user privacy and security, a stance that has faced criticism from competitors and regulators alike.

Additionally, Apple’s iMessage service has drawn scrutiny for its exclusive availability on Apple devices, allegedly disadvantaging messages sent to Android phones. However, Apple’s recent decision to support RCS, a messaging technology promoted by Google, reflects a shift in approach amid growing regulatory pressure.

Why does it matter?

The looming antitrust lawsuit against Apple, the third by the Justice Department in 14 years but the first targeting the iPhone maker’s alleged illegal maintenance of its dominant position, underscores ongoing concerns about competition in the tech industry. Apple has also faced antitrust scrutiny in the EU, fined €1.8B for the Spotify antitrust case. Amidst this backdrop, Apple is embroiled in antitrust disputes with Epic Games and faces criticism from other tech giants over its App Store policies, signalling broader industry discontent with Apple’s practices.