US preparing to file antitrust charges against Apple: Report

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The US Justice Department is reportedly preparing to file a federal antitrust case against Apple for keeping customers locked into its ecosystem. According to a report in The New York Times, citing sources, the Justice Department is in “late stages” of a probe into the iPhone maker for “its control over its hardware and software to make it difficult for consumers to ditch the company’s devices.”

The investigation is looking at how Apple blocks competitors from using iMessage as well as how the Apple Watch works better when used with the iPhone. Additionally, the Justice Department is reportedly examining how Apple prevents third-party providers from using iPhone-specific payment services. “Senior leaders in the Justice Department’s antitrust division are reviewing the results of the investigation so far,” said the report, citing people aware of the matter.

“Apple has not had a final meeting with the Justice Department in which it can make its case to the government before a lawsuit is filed,” the report mentioned. Apple was yet to comment on the report. The company has said in the past that its practices do not violate antitrust law. According to Apple, its “approach has always been to grow the pie” and “create more opportunities not just for our business, but for artists, creators, entrepreneurs and every ‘crazy one’ with a big idea.”

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In 2020, Apple CEO Tim Cook said during testimony before a congressional antitrust committee that the company redefined mobile phones with “its effortless user experience, its simplicity of design and a high-quality ecosystem.” “Apple does not have a dominant market share in any market where we do business. That is not just true for the iPhone; it is true for any product category,” Cook had said.

In February last year, The Wall Street Journal reported the DOJ was in the process of escalating its investigation into Apple. The Justice Department has already filed two anti-trust cases against Google, focused on its search and ad tech businesses. Google in December last year agreed to pay $700 million to settle antitrust charges. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sued Amazon and Meta for “stifling competition”.