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Apple defeats consumers' crypto-payment antitrust case for now

Credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Mike Scarcella

March 27 (Reuters) - A federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a consumer lawsuit accusing Apple of driving up fees at platforms such as Venmo and Cash App by prohibiting payment apps from implementing cryptocurrency transactions.

In a ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria called the proposed class action "speculative" and said it “suffers from several fatal problems.” He gave the plaintiffs 21 days to amend their complaint.

The November 2023 lawsuit alleged Apple was imposing restrictions on cryptocurrency technology in its popular App Store, harming competition for peer-to-peer payments and pushing up fees for cash and credit card transactions at PayPal’s Venmo and Block’s Cash App. It said Apple has excluded at least two Bitcoin wallet apps.

Apple on Tuesday did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

An attorney for the plaintiffs declined to comment.

Cupertino, California-based Apple in February asked Chhabria to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to show any unlawful app rules or business agreements.

The plaintiffs' lawsuit alleged Venmo, Cash App and others agreed to a specific App Store iPhone guideline that they said prevented developers from using some cryptocurrency transactions.

In his ruling, Chhabria said it was not clear that it was an “unlawful agreement” under federal antitrust law for companies to follow such a guideline.

Apple faces other antitrust lawsuits, including one from the U.S. Justice Department and a group of states alleging the iPhone maker was unlawfully monopolizing the smartphone market. Apple denied the claims and said it would fight the case.

In September, a federal judge in another case said payment card issuers can sue Apple over alleged anticompetitive practices involving its Apple Pay mobile wallet.

Other lawsuits challenge Apple’s rules for iCloud storage, and consumers are pursuing a class action accusing the company of monopolizing the market for iPhone apps.

The case is Lamartine Pierre et al v. Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. Case 5:23-cv-05981.

For plaintiffs: Yavar Bathaee and Brian Dunne of Bathaee Dunne

For Apple: Belinda Lee and Sarah Ray of Latham & Watkins

Read more:

Consumers sue Apple, taking page from US Justice Department lawsuit

Apple antitrust suit mirrors strategy that beat Microsoft, but tech industry has changed

Apple hit with consumer lawsuit claiming cloud storage monopoly

Apple wants ‘speculative’ consumer lawsuit over crypto tech dismissed

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella)

((Mike.Scarcella@thomsonreuters.com;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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