Apple and Amazon.com must be sued in a US court for conspiracy to artificially inflate the price of iPhones and iPads sold on the Amazon platform, a federal judge in Seattle ruled Thursday.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour rejected bids from Apple and Amazon to dismiss the prospective class action on several legal grounds.
Coughenour said the “validity” of the relevant market, a central issue in antitrust litigation, was a question for a jury.
The lawsuit, filed in November, is one of several private and government actions challenging Amazon’s online pricing practices. Coughenour’s ruling means the case will move forward with evidence gathering and other preliminary ruling proceedings.
Apple and Amazon lawyers and representatives for the companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.
Steve Berman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called the court’s ruling “a big win for consumers of Apple phones and iPads.”
The plaintiffs are US residents who purchased new iPhones and iPads on Amazon as of January 2019. They allege that an agreement between Apple and Amazon that went into effect that year limited the number of competing resellers in violation of antitrust provisions.
According to the lawsuit, there were about 600 third-party Apple resellers on Amazon in 2018. Apple agreed to discount Amazon’s products if Amazon reduced the number of Apple resellers in its marketplace, the lawsuit alleged.
Apple has argued that the agreement with Amazon limited the number of authorized resellers to help minimize the sale of counterfeit Apple goods on the e-commerce platform.
In a lawsuit, Apple’s lawyers called the agreement “competitive” and said the “Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit have routinely recognized that such agreements are pro-competitive and lawful.”
The Seattle judge said “contradictory” motives for the Apple-Amazon deal will be addressed later in the lawsuit.
Apple recorded $94.8 billion in second-quarter sales and Amazon reported $127.4 billion in its most recent quarterly earnings.
The complaint seeks unspecified treble damages and other relief.
The case is Steven Floyd v Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 2:22-cv-01599-JCC.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and was published from a syndicated news agency feed – Reuters)