美最高法院裁定用户可起诉苹果抽取开发者佣金的行为

英国《金融时报》 卡齐姆•舒伯 华盛顿报道
2019.05.14 12:00

周一,美国最高法院(US Supreme Court)为iPhone用户提起的一桩具有里程碑意义的反垄断诉讼铺平了道路。这些用户主张,苹果(Apple)为应用筑起的“围墙花园”是反竞争的。

美国最高法院以5票对4票做出判决,意见书由最高法院大法官布雷特•卡瓦诺(Justice Brett Kavanaugh)起草。判决裁定,用户可就苹果向在其应用商店(App Store)发售应用的开发者抽取30%佣金起诉苹果。

这项裁决可能会给苹果带来深远的影响,对其他运营在线市场的公司亦是如此。苹果禁止其用户从其应用商店以外的地方购买应用。

在美中贸易战升级导致市场广泛疲弱之际,苹果在纽约午盘下跌逾5%。

近期才被美国总统唐纳德•特朗普(Donald Trump)任命为大法官的卡瓦诺是一名坚定的保守派。然而在法庭上,他与自由派大法官一道下达了一项用他的话来说是“直截了当”的裁决。这项裁决的依据是苹果与其用户有直接关系。

卡瓦诺在最高法院的多数方意见书(majority opinion)中写道:“iPhone用户从零售商苹果那里直接购买应用,而苹果是被指控的反垄断违规方。iPhone用户直接向苹果支付被指控的超额费用。不存在中间方,这是决定性的。”

苹果在声明中表示苹果应用商店“以任何尺度衡量都不构成垄断”,并补充说:“我们相信,在事实呈现出来以后,我们将会胜出。”

苹果表示,开发者在应用商店中设定价格,“而苹果在其中不发挥任何作用”。“开发者可以从多个平台中选择一个来发行他们的软件——从其他应用商店、到智能电视、游戏主机——而我们每天努力工作,是为了让我们的应用商店成为世界上最优秀、最安全和最有竞争力的。”

法庭面对的问题是,iPhone用户是否能就苹果收取30%佣金、因此涉嫌导致价格上扬而要求赔偿损失,即使这笔佣金是向开发者收取、而非直接向用户收取的。

这桩诉讼始于2011年提起的一桩集体诉讼案。以罗伯特•佩珀(Robert Pepper)为首的原告主张,苹果通过要求用户使用苹果应用商店,非法垄断了iPhone应用的销售。

那桩诉讼遭加利福利亚洲一个地区法院驳回,但第九巡回上诉法庭后来推翻了这项决定。

2017年,苹果向美国最高法院提起上诉,请求最高法院依据1977年伊利诺伊砖业案(Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois)的先例驳回对苹果的诉讼。伊利诺伊砖业案的法庭意见确立,只有产品的直接购买者可以依据联邦反垄断法就被人为抬高的价格寻求3倍损害赔偿。

苹果主张,这一先例意味着,在此案中,原告应该只能起诉开发者,因为是开发者设定了应用的价格,而非苹果。

卡瓦诺表示,苹果的论点“从经济和法理上都不具有说服力”。

卡瓦诺写道:“苹果的理论会为垄断零售商提供一份路线图,让它们通过安排与制造商或者供应商的交易,规避消费者提出的反垄断诉求,从而阻挠反垄断的有效执行。”

译者/徐行

以下为此文英文原文:US Supreme Court rules against Apple in App Store dispute

By Kadhim Shubber in Washington

The US Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a landmark antitrust lawsuit filed by iPhone owners who argued that Apple’s “walled garden” for apps is anti-competitive.

In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court said customers could sue Apple over the 30 per cent commission it charges developers who want to sell apps through its App Store.

The ruling may have far-reaching consequences for Apple, which bans customers from buying apps outside its App Store, and for other companies that operate online marketplaces.

Apple shares were down more than 5 per cent at midday in New York amid wider market weakness caused by the escalating trade war with China.

Mr Kavanaugh, a staunch conservative and recent appointee of President Donald Trump, joined with the liberals on the court to deliver what he called a “straightforward” ruling built on Apple’s direct relationship with its customers.

“The iPhone owners purchase apps directly from the retailer Apple, who is the alleged antitrust violator. The iPhone owners pay the alleged overcharge directly to Apple. The absence of an intermediary is dispositive,” he wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

In a statement, Apple said that the App Store was “not a monopoly by any metric”, adding: “We’re confident we will prevail when the facts are presented.”

Developers set prices in the App Store “and Apple has no role in that”, it said. “Developers have a number of platforms to choose from to deliver their software — from other apps stores, to Smart TVs to gaming consoles — and we work hard every day to make our store the best, safest and most competitive in the world.”

The question before the court was whether iPhone owners could claim damages for alleged price inflation caused by a 30 per cent commission, even though the fee is levied upon developers, rather than consumers directly.

The case began as a class-action lawsuit filed in 2011. The plaintiffs, led by Robert Pepper, argued that Apple had unlawfully monopolised the sale of iPhone apps by requiring customers to use its App Store.

The lawsuit was thrown out by a district court in California, but that decision was later reversed by the Ninth Circuit appeals court.

In 2017, Apple filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, asking it to block the lawsuit on the basis of a 1977 precedent set in a case called Illinois Brick, which said only the direct buyers of a product could seek triple damages for inflated prices under federal antitrust law.

The company had argued the precedent meant that in this case the plaintiffs should only be able to sue developers, who set the price of their individual apps, rather than Apple itself.

Mr Kavanaugh said Apple’s arguments were “not persuasive economically or legally”.

He wrote: “Apple’s theory would provide a road map for monopolistic retailers to structure transactions with manufacturers or suppliers so as to evade antitrust claims by consumers and thereby thwart effective antitrust enforcement.”


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