U.S. judge rules Apple and Amazon must face antitrust lawsuit alleging price-fixing

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    10th June 2023 – (New York) Apple and Amazon.com must face a consumer antitrust lawsuit in a US court, according to a ruling by U.S. District Judge John Coughenour in Seattle on Thursday. The lawsuit alleges that the two companies conspired to artificially inflate the price of iPhones and iPads sold on Amazon’s platform, by restricting the number of competitive resellers in violation of antitrust provisions. The case will move forward to evidence-gathering and other pretrial proceedings.

    The lawsuit, filed by US residents who bought new iPhones and iPads on Amazon beginning in January 2019, is one of several private and government actions challenging Amazon’s online price practices. The plaintiffs contend that an agreement between Apple and Amazon that went into effect in 2019 resulted in the restriction of the number of competitive resellers, which violated antitrust provisions.

    Apple and Amazon had filed bids to dismiss the prospective class action on various legal grounds, but Judge Coughenour rejected them. He said that the “validity” of the relevant market, a central issue in antitrust litigation, was a question for a jury.

    Apple had argued that its agreement with Amazon was designed to minimize counterfeit Apple goods being sold on the e-commerce platform. According to the lawsuit, there were some 600 third-party Apple resellers on Amazon in 2018. Apple agreed to give Amazon a discount on its products if Amazon reduced the number of Apple resellers from its marketplace, the lawsuit alleged.

    In a court filing, Apple’s attorneys called the agreement “commonplace” and said that “such agreements are procompetitive and lawful.” However, the judge in Seattle said “countervailing” motivations for the agreement between Apple and Amazon would be addressed later in the litigation.

    The complaint seeks unspecified triple damages and other relief. Apple recorded $94.8 billion in sales in the second quarter, and Amazon reported $127.4 billion in its most recent quarterly earnings report.

    Lawyers for both Apple and Amazon, as well as representatives for the companies, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

    Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the court’s ruling “a major win for consumers of Apple phones and iPads.” This is a significant decision in the ongoing legal battles between tech giants and regulators over antitrust issues, and could have wide-ranging implications for the tech industry.