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Apple is likely to face DOJ antitrust lawsuit: Report

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Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley discusses the latest from a DOJ probe into Apple's antitrust practices.

Video Transcript

- Well, Apple could soon be facing an antitrust lawsuit from the Department of Justice. The information reports the DOJ is accelerating its investigation into the tech giant and adding more staff to support the case. Let's bring in Yahoo Finance's Dan Howley, who's been covering the story for us. And Dan, of course, we're talking about an investigation around the rules in Apple's app store. It's been going on for two years now. What could potentially change?

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, so this investigation really kind of getting more gas added to it. I guess really the big deal here is that there were subpoenas sent out, excuse me, and that they're talking to more people about Apple-- consumers, developers, as well as the company itself. And you know, this has been ongoing for two years. And it is interesting to see that we're starting to get even more momentum.

You would think that, at this point, Apple's kind of antitrust woes were almost about done. We had seen that, in the Epic trial, they were found to not engage in monopolistic behavior. They engaged in anti-competitive behavior. And in that, they were told that they needed to change the way that developers make-- or people make payments to developers through the App Store. But Apple is appealing that right now, and they're seeking an injunction to prevent that from moving forward.

But really, you know, we haven't heard anything as far as this DOJ investigation goes. We had heard about it some time ago, and really it's been kind of radio silence since then, with the focus mostly on Amazon and Google, as well as Facebook. But it appears that the other shoe is going to drop for Apple at this point.

Now, they seem to have less exposure as far as their overall business, right? We're looking at Facebook, where the FTC is trying to break the company up, or we're looking at Google and its ad business. You know, Apple makes a good amount of money out of the App Store, but that's not really [INAUDIBLE] breadwinner. And so how that impacts the company overall could be minimal compared to the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

I think really, when it comes to Apple, they've already started to try to make moves to kind of head this off, where they're allowing reader apps like Spotify and Netflix to provide information for where users can sign up outside of the App Store, something that previously the companies weren't allowed to do. And I think what Apple is really trying to do here is head off any kind of real serious allegations about antitrust. But if the investigation is picking up as the information says, then it may not be able to avoid this.

- And to what extent, Dan, do you think that can be effective in keeping the DOJ at bay? I mean, the information seems to suggest that this investigation is moving forward regardless of what-- the steps Apple has taken already. But I wonder what the thinking is within the company about this being a solution that they can bring to the DOJ to basically hold off a potential lawsuit.

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, I think really what they're trying to do is hold on to the grip that they have, as far as power over the App Store and developers. You could see that through the way they're appealing the ruling in the Epic Games case, where they're trying to ensure that they don't have to allow third-party payment options for developers. And that's something that really is going to be the big sticking point here. It's the control that Apple has over the App Store and how developers are able to get payments.

And I think that's going to continue to be the issue. And I don't think that Apple is going to concede on those points. I think it really is going to end up having to really be up to the DOJ to say we're bringing this suit, let's see what you kind of go for next, if you make moves, or if you actually want to continue to fight this. And you know, look, this doesn't look good for Google, either, by the way, because their app store and Apple's app store are essentially the same.