By JOHN RICHARDSONAPPLE, APWashington – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an attempt by the federal government to force Apple to provide users with fair phone service in states where it does business.
The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, which argued that Apple violated antitrust law when it failed to offer a fair iPhone service to consumers in many states where the company does business by not allowing them to buy iPhones from authorized Apple resellers.
The case, known as Samsung’s Mobility Case, challenged a ruling by a federal appeals court in January that had barred Apple from using the iPhone and iPad in some states where Samsung does business, saying that such a policy violates the antitrust laws.
The court said in a 4-3 ruling that it had no intention of overturning the ruling or imposing any restrictions on Samsung’s ability to sell its products.
In a 4 to 3 decision, the justices said that the lower courts had done enough to hold that the company had violated the law by failing to provide consumers with a fair phone plan in at least some of the states where Apple does business and by refusing to sell iPhone and iPod products in those states.
Apple, which does business in nearly 200 countries, said in the motion that it is committed to providing customers in at-will, nationwide, wireless access to its iPhones and iPads.
The company argued that it should not have to compete with the resellers and carriers who provide phone service to customers, and that the courts had no authority to overturn a ruling that Samsung violated the antitrust law by not providing iPhones and iPods in at all.
The case centered on Michigan, which has been a stronghold for Samsung in recent years.
A majority of Michigan voters supported an initiative in 2014 that would have required the state to provide iPhone and other Apple products to residents in exchange for a fair rate.
A similar measure in California would have provided a phone plan for consumers, and a separate measure in Arizona would have allowed it.
Samsung, however, argued that the state’s law, passed in 2015, did not violate the law because it did not apply to phone services that consumers purchase directly from the company, and the company did not offer any smartphone service to residents of Michigan.
Apple, which sells iPhones and other smartphones, argued in its motion that the Michigan law was invalid because it required the company to compete directly with other phone companies.
It said that it was the state, not the companies that were providing the phone plans.
The justices did not immediately rule on whether the Michigan statute is unconstitutional.