Justice Department officials have intensified to develop a potential antitrust complaint targeting Apple, according to a report Wednesday.
While the antitrust probe into Apple’s business began in 2019, the DOJ has “escalated” the effort by adding more lawyers to the case and making new requests for relevant documents and consultations with impacted companies, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The DOJ’s probe is centered on whether Apple has engaged in anticompetitive business practices.
Investigators are reportedly exploring Apple’s policies toward third-party apps on its devices and whether its operating system, iOS favors its own software products over those developed by other firms.
The department is also assessing the extent to which Jonathan Kanter, the assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s antitrust division, should be involved in the Apple probe.
Kanter was reportedly “sidelined” due to his past work representing clients who accused Apple of having anti-competitive business practices, but sources told the Journal that the department has since analyzed whether he should be permitted to oversee the case and will likely clear him to participate.
The Justice Department declined to comment. Apple did not immediately return a request for comment.
Shares of Apple were up about 1% in intraday trading Wednesday.
Antitrust scrutiny of Apple and other Big Tech giants have intensified in recent years, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle vowing to crackdown on firms accused of suppressing competition.
Criticism of Apple’s business practices have largely focused on its App Store, where the company takes a 30% fee on paid downloads and in-app purchases for developers that earn $1 million or more in annual revenue. Apple has argued its practices encourage competition in the online marketplace, where outside developers compete with its own products.
The App Store has faced criticism from the likes of Elon Musk, who likened it to a “30% tax on the internet” last year, and from Fortnite creator Epic Games, which waged a high-profile legal battle against Apple that ended in a split verdict.
The scope of the DOJ’s probe purportedly extends beyond the App Store to an exploration of whether Apple is using iOS to boost both its software and hardware products at the expense of rivals. Apple has limited access to iOS, its messaging platform iMessage and other apps to its own iPhones.
The DOJ has a pair of pending lawsuits against Google. Last month, the agency joined with eight states to sue Google parent Alphabet for allegedly monopolizing the digital advertising market.
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