At issue is whether Apple's walled garden approach to its iOS platform - in which developers are pretty much forced to sell their iPhone and iPad software exclusively via Cupertino's official App Store and pay Apple a 30 per cent cut - is artificially raising prices and a violation of USA antitrust laws on monopoly control. Apple says that the app developers are the ones who set the price of their apps; the plaintiffs counter that Apple is to blame because the company takes a 30% cut of an app's revenue.
The court must decide whether there is a case if there is no direct link between Apple and the app buyers.
Apple's legal team could soon be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court to face an anti-trust case being levied against the company.
"This is a critical question for antitrust law in the era of electronic commerce", Apple said at the time.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh said consumers experience harm through higher prices, but also noted that plaintiffs' basis to sue is murky, because Apple doesn't purchase apps from developers and then resell them to consumers.
But the lawsuit says the Cupertino, California-based company exerts a lot of control over the process, including a requirement that prices end in.99. In other cases, the court has ruled there must be a direct relationship between the seller and a party complaining about unfair, anti-competitive pricing. Its argument: the company is merely providing a marketplace for the apps. In its friend of court brief, the Justice Department said it would be particularly hard to figure out whether the App Store overcharges, since the prices are set by tens of thousands of app developers.
"This is a closed loop", Justice Sonia Sotomayor told a lawyer for Apple. Part of the concern, the court said in that case, was to free judges from having to make complex calculations of damages.
"Apple directed anticompetitive restraints at iPhone owners to prevent them from buying apps anywhere other than Apple's monopoly App Store", Frederick said. "From my perspective", she said, "I've engaged in a one-step transaction with Apple".
Apple was backed by Republican President Donald Trump's administration.
"As a result, iPhone owners paid Apple more for apps than they would have paid in a competitive retail market".
The lawsuit was initially dismissed because the commission is imposed on the developers, not the purchasers who are suing.
A federal district judge initially ruled in Apple's favor, but a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco overruled that decision previous year and held that consumers were direct purchasers of iPhone apps.