Take a Bite Out of This

Apple’s new lawsuit

Apple is once again in the news for yet another lawsuit involving possible antitrust infringement.  In this most recent case, filed at the beginning of this month, Apple has been accused of engaging in the practice of “tying,” which involves the stipulation that a consumer must use one product to use another.  Specifically, users of iPads and iPhones are tied to the iCloud service for storage.  According to the lawsuit, given Apple’s position in the market as a monopoly, certain rules apply to the company that make it allegedly illegal for the company to tie these products together.

Within the class action, the plaintiffs cite the Sherman Antitrust Act as the regulation violated by Apple.  The company has found success with manipulating its technology to prevent the backup of specific types of files to competitor storage services.  In particular, device settings and app data may only be saved to iCloud backup storage, thus forcing the consumer to use an additional Apple product instead of considering comparable cloud services from other companies, such as Google and Drop Box.  The class action contends that even if a consumer selects a competing company to store a portion of the device’s file content, the consumer will still need to utilize iCloud for the restricted files specified by Apple.      

By creating these restrictions for consumers, Apple has reportedly seized the competition.  The company has tailored its products to not only entice, but almost force consumers to avoid using multiple cloud storage services and using iCloud as a central product.  As a result of applying this tying practice, the company has been getting away with charging astronomical prices and forming iCloud into an impressively profitable sector of the business.  The plaintiffs claim that $16 billion derives from this storage product each year.  This class action raises the question of whether Apple gains success through delivering attractively superior products or through market manipulation.