A federal court overturned an earlier dismissal of the case, which may be expanded to include all App Store purchases.
A class action lawsuit claiming that Apple’s App Store is a monopoly can continue, a federal court ruled Thursday, reviving a case that seeks to recover damages from several years’ worth of App Store purchases.
The suit, originally filed in 2011, argues that since iOS users can’t download apps anywhere other than the App Store, it is effectively a monopoly that runs afoul of antitrust rules. The suit also took issue with the exclusive contract Apple initially had with AT&T for the iPhone and the $99 annual fee it charged developers for access to its SDK.
Thursday’s ruling reverses the earlier decision of the District Court for the Eighth Circuit, which dismissed the suit based on Apple’s argument that the plaintiffs lacked statutory standing. The case will now go back to the circuit court.
In his decision, Judge William Fletcher wrote that the court was unconvinced by Apple’s argument that the App Store is akin to a shopping mall that leases physical space to stores.
“In the case before us, third-party developers of iPhone apps do not have their own ‘stores,'” he wrote. “Indeed, part of the anti-competitive behavior alleged by Plaintiffs is that, far from allowing iPhone app developers to sell through their own ‘stores,’ Apple specifically forbids them to do so, instead requiring them to sell iPhone apps only through Apple’s App Store.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the court’s decision.
Mark Rifkin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Bloomberg that millions of consumers should be able to recover most of Apple’s 30 percent take from App Store sales if the class action is successful. While the original class involved people who purchased apps from 2007 to 2013, Rifkin said that he may seek to expand the the class to include anyone who bought apps for iPhones to the present.
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