Apple may be on the brink of a U.S. antitrust probe due to ‘iron-clad control’ in the App Store

Apple has a set of guidelines and rules for submitting and distributing apps in its App Store, but sometimes the company’s control of the digital storefront has not gone over well with developers and legislators alike.

As such, Apple has been very close to an antitrust case in the United States for quite some time. This is something the company has faced in the European Union, and, just like there, this potential case in the U.S. would focus solely on the App Store and Apple’s so-called “iron-clad control” of the storefront. Now, according to a report from Politico, the Department of Justice and a collection of attorneys general are ready to move forward with an investigation of Apple’s practices.

The report is based on information gathered from three anonymous sources, all of which say that the DOJ and attorneys general from a collection of states are “taking the first steps toward launching an antitrust probe of Apple”.

The Justice Department and a coalition of state attorneys general are taking the first steps toward launching an antitrust probe of Apple, turning the iPhone-maker into the latest Silicon Valley giant to face legal jeopardy in Washington, three people involved in the discussions told POLITICO.

The individuals said DOJ and the AGs have spoken to several companies unhappy with Apple’s ironclad control of its App Store, the source of frequent griping by developers who say the company’s rules are applied inconsistently — particularly for apps that compete with Apple’s own products — and lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

The report says these discussions have taken place as recently as last week. This follows the pair of antitrust cases against Apple that were launched in the EU recently, one of which is tasked with investigating the App Store and Apple’s practices with it, and Apple’s payment platform, Apple Pay. Antitrust cases have been “bearing down” on other major tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, but Apple has so far escaped U.S. legislators’ scrutiny in this regard.

That appears to be coming to an end, though.

The sources did not say which states attorneys general are part of the discussions, nor how many states are involved with the discussions with the DOJ. But this potential antitrust probe into Apple could lead to a major impact on Apple’s Services division, which has, so far, been one of the biggest money makers for the company to date. Nothing is official just yet, but if these sources are accurate then we should be hearing something official soon enough.

Apple’s App Store rules have come to a head recently, along with the overall review process in general, when the company initially approved the HEY email app. However, when Basecamp, the developers behind the email app, tried to submit some bug fixes, Apple’s review process rejected the app. This led to Apple’s Phil Schiller saying that the company had no plans on changing the rules in the App Store. Ultimately, Apple approved the Hey email app after Basecamp included a way to use a free trial.