The judge questioned Apple’s App Store rule that blocks developers from including a link or other information in their apps to steer users away from the store to buy virtual goods elsewhere online at a discounted rate. The anti-steering policy is at the heart of Epic’s argument that Apple maintains a near-monopoly and juices profits by barring developers from offering alternative payment options in their apps. “What’s so bad about it anyway, for consumers to have choice?” Gonzalez Rogers asked Richard Schmalensee, an economist and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, who was testifying Wednesday as an expert witness for Apple in the second week of trial in Oakland, California.
Her question drew pushback from Schmalensee, who noted that the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 2018 ruling, threw out a lawsuit that accused American Express of thwarting competition by prohibiting merchants from steering customers to cards with lower fees. “If the app vendor can say, if you press this button you can buy this for less, that means the App Store can’t collect its commission,” Schmalensee said. That amounts to “undercutting” Apple’s App Store sales, he said. Gonzalez Rogers said she didn’t think the situations were “factually the same.”
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