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DOJ close to antitrust case against Apple over iPhone dominance

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The Justice Department is in the final stages of a probe into Apple and could launch an antitrust case against the tech giant over its market monopoly.

Three sources said the agency is likely to file the suit by the first half of this year to target the company's strategies to maintain the dominance of the iPhone.

The investigation looks at how Apple controls hardware and software to obstruct consumers seeking alternatives and restricts competitors' ability to compete effectively.

Sources said investigators focus on integrating the Apple Watch with the iPhone and its exclusivity over its iMessage service. 

Additionally, the scrutiny extends to Apple's payment system for the iPhone.

The regulators accuse the company of obstructing other financial entities from providing similar services.

High-ranking officials within the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) antitrust division are evaluating the investigation's findings. 

Meetings between the agency and Apple have occurred, including discussions in December.

However, the agency did not reach a final decision regarding filing a lawsuit.

Apple has not had an opportunity for a conclusive meeting with the DOJ to present its case before any legal action.

If the DOJ proceeds with the lawsuit, it would significantly challenge the world's most valuable tech company. 

US regulators have taken legal actions against Google, Meta, and Amazon for alleged monopolistic practices in the past five years.

The potential Apple lawsuit will likely surpass previous antitrust challenges.

It addresses the company's business model that tightly integrates the iPhone with devices like the Apple Watch and services like Apple Pay. 

Competitors claim they have been denied access to crucial features, arguing that these practices are anti-competitive.

Both the DOJ and Apple declined to comment on the matter. 

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Apple has previously defended its practices, emphasizing its commitment to growing opportunities for various businesses.

This anticipated legal action adds to the mounting regulatory pressure faced by Apple globally. 

European regulators would enforce measures under the Digital Markets Act, requiring the firm to accommodate app stores beyond its own. 

Similar actions against the App Store are underway or considered in South Korea and Japan.

The resolution of the DOJ's probe may also be influenced by how Apple complies with European regulations. 

The company faces increasing regulatory scrutiny as its business experiences a slowdown.

It reported a 2.8 percent decline in annual revenue in the previous fiscal year.

Initially prioritizing Google over Apple due to resource constraints, the investigation expanded its scope in 2022. 

It includes Apple's restrictions on cloud gaming apps, competition with Tile's tracking services, limitations on accessing location services, and obstacles faced by messaging apps attempting to operate across different smartphone operating systems.

The probe also involves the tech giant's interactions with banks and payment apps regarding access to tap-to-pay functions. 

Regulators scrutinized Apple Watch's compatibility with other smartwatches, the App Tracking Transparency tool's impact on user data collection by advertisers, and the imposition of fees on in-app purchases.

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