French iOS Developers Sue Apple for Biz Practices, Antitrust Violations

Two French app developers, Société du Figaro, SAS, L’Équipe 24/24 SAS, and an association representing French publishers of online content and services, le GESTE, have sued Apple Inc. in California federal court. Monday’s complaint asserts illegal monopolization of the iOS app distribution and in-app purchase (IAP) market and states claims under federal and California law.

The complaint, like others filed against Apple over its app store practices by an app developer class and individual plaintiffs like Kardia and Epic Games, alleges that Apple has intentionally funneled all iOS app traffic to its App Store. 

With this control, Apple has purportedly exacted an up to 30% commission from the plaintiffs and other French app developers on both app sales and IAPs for more than a decade. Other restrictions include a minimum price for apps, a $99 annual fee assessed to app developers who sell on the App Store, and undue interference in the relationship between developers and end-users.

The complaint contends that not only does Apple have total control over this market, it has achieved and maintains that control via anticompetitive means. The plaintiffs say its purported justification–security–is a farce.

“Supposedly, it competes as to the sale of iOS devices in part by offering some sort of unique security regime for apps and in-app products,” the complaint says. Yet, the plaintiffs assert that Apple has no support to back its theory that iOS device owners bought their products because Apple mandates one app store and the use of its own distribution and IAP services.

The alleged misconduct has harmed developers by charging them supracompetitive fees and denying them other opportunities to get paid for their work, while depressing output and stifling innovation, the filing claims. It notes that Apple has admitted in other court filings that the developers have standing to bring the suit, which the plaintiffs add was brought in accordance with Apple’s contractually provided choice of law and forum.

The federal law class seeks to encompass French people or entities that paid Apple a commission of greater than 15% for iOS app-distribution or IAP services via the iOS App Store. The complaint seeks damages, including treble and punitive damages, or restitution.

The plaintiffs are represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, the same counsel that represents a putative class of credit card issuers in a recently-filed monopolization action against Apple over surcharge fees.