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Antitrust Investigation Launched by DOJ: Apple Faces Scrutiny for Blocking Beeper Android App

Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission Assess Apple's Actions Amidst Controversy

NEWS  Apple  December 22, 2023  Reading time: 2 Minute(s)

mdo Max (RS editor)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has initiated a preliminary antitrust investigation into Apple's decision to block Beeper, the unofficial app that provided Android users access to iMessage. This move by the DOJ comes in the wake of a bipartisan group of senators urging an inquiry into Apple's actions, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also reportedly "evaluating" the tech giant's conduct.

Apple's Persistent Resistance to iMessage on Android

Apple has consistently maintained its refusal to make iMessage available on Android devices, positioning it as a key differentiator and a selling point for iPhones. Third-party attempts to bridge this gap have often raised privacy concerns, including a questionable approach by an earlier version of Beeper in 2021.

The saga continued with the recent introduction of Beeper Mini, which notably did not require users to have an Apple ID, offering a workaround by linking their phone number to the service. However, Apple swiftly closed the identified loophole and asserted its readiness to take further actions.

Beeper, in response, released updates attempting to circumvent Apple's measures, but each attempt was met with a swift response from Apple, leading to a cat-and-mouse game. Eventually, Beeper acknowledged the futility of the struggle, announcing that Apple had emerged victorious in blocking its functionalities.

DOJ Investigation Gains Momentum

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers called on the DOJ to investigate Apple for potential antitrust violations. While initial skepticism existed regarding the legitimacy of the claims, The New York Times has reported that the DOJ is indeed delving into the matter. Notably, Beeper Mini had a meeting with the department's antitrust lawyers on December 12, though details of the meeting remain undisclosed.

The timeline raises questions about whether the DOJ's interest was prompted by concerns raised by senators or if Beeper had lodged a complaint earlier. The DOJ is currently amidst a four-year-old investigation into Apple's anticompetitive behavior, adding complexity to the unfolding situation.

FTC's Potential Involvement

The FTC is also rumored to be entering the fray. The FTC's role is allegedly that of evaluating claims of privacy and data security that may impact competition. Notably, the agency stated in 2021 that security claims by companies should be rejected if found to be a mere pretext for anticompetitive conduct.

As Apple faces increased scrutiny over its actions against Beeper, the tech industry and consumers alike await the outcomes of both the DOJ and FTC investigations, which may have far-reaching implications for the interplay between tech giants and third-party developers.




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