Apple Sued for Restricting Cryptocurrency Payments

New class-action lawsuit challenges Apple's crypto-related policies. According to the complaint, the giant stifles competition from new and existing P2P payment apps.

Crypto payments

Aggrieved consumers accuse Apple (AAPL) of blocking cryptocurrencies as a payment method. In a class-action lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on November 17, plaintiffs claim that the company "bars the incorporation of decentralized cryptocurrency technology within existing or new iOS Peer-to-Peer Payment apps" through "technological and contractual restraints."

The complaint alleges that Apple entered into agreements with a number of companies from the P2P payment industry, including PayPal, Block, and Google, restricting feature and, consequently, price competition. The plaintiffs also accuse the Cupertino giant of imposing "hardware-enforced App Store exclusivity and contractual limitations on web browser technology," ensuring the company full control over apps installed on iPhones and iPads. Leveraging its market position, Apple is able to force similar constraints in agreements with other P2P payment apps.

If it weren't for those restraints – the plaintiffs suggest – both new and existing competitors could roll out new, user-friendly features in their P2P payment products, including blockchain-based and cryptocurrency-related solutions. Such a development would contribute to lowering transaction costs and increasing throughput for P2P payments. According to the complainants, Apple's marketwide restraints have led to price inflation and stifled competition from new and existing providers.

It's not the first time Apple has had to deal with accusations of anti-competitive behavior. In 2022, the company introduced a series of updates to its rules for iPhone and iPad-dedicated apps, including softening restrictions concerning non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The trouble was that Apple didn't allow unlocking in-app features based on NFT ownership, undermining one of the fundamental concepts of NFTs.

In September this year, Apple faced a private antitrust lawsuit filed by payment card issuers. The company was accused of thwarting Apple Pay's competition. According to the complaint, Apple "coerces" users of its products, including iPhones, into using its mobile wallet, as opposed to Google, which allows users to choose between wallets on Android-based devices. The plaintiffs alleged that Apple's policies forced over 4,000 banks and credit unions using Apple Pay to pay $1 billion of excess fees, ultimately harming consumers.