Congress is investigating Apple's control of the market for iPhone repairs

broken iphone smashed screen iconsJeff Turner/Flickr (CC)

  • Congress has asked Apple for a trove of documents regarding its restrictions on third-party repairs, and how it promotes its own apps in the App Store, among other issues.
  • The request for information is part of a broader congressional antitrust probe into the tech giants that was first announced in June.
  • Apple has traditionally placed tight restrictions on allowing third parties to repair iPhones and Macs, but has recently taken steps to loosen its policies.
  • The inquiry also follows a recent New York Times analysis that found third-party apps often appear lower in search results than Apple's own, similar products.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether Apple's restrictive policies around allowing third-party repairs to its devices, and its algorithms for search rankings in the App Store, constitute a violation of antitrust law.

The committee sent a letter to Apple on Friday requesting a trove of documents on the company's practices, as well as certain internal communications at the company. Issues mentioned in the letter include Apple's "restrictions on third-party repairs" of its devices, the App Store algorithm for search result rankings, and Apple's policies on permitting apps to use payment systems other than Apple Pay.

A New York Times analysis this week found that App Store rankings disproportionately promoted Apple's own apps, shunting competitors' apps further down in search results. Apple denied that this was intentional, arguing that its apps appeared higher in search simply because they were more popular.

The letter sent by the congressional probe Friday is the latest development in the committee's bipartisan antitrust investigation into tech giants announced in June. As part of the same inquiry, the committee also sent similar letters to Facebook and Google parent company Alphabet on Friday requesting information on how the companies dominate online advertising.

Apple has long held tight control over the market for repairs on its own devices, but has recently taken steps to loosen those restrictions. Last month, it began selling iPhone parts to some independent repair companies - but, importantly, it still does not sell parts directly to customers.

Tech giants are facing increasing scrutiny, even as the congressional probe ramps up. Earlier this week, 50 state attorneys general announced a joint investigation into the control Facebook and Google hold over search and digital advertising.

"Today's document requests are an important milestone in this investigation as we work to obtain the information that our Members need to make this determination," House Judiciary Antitrust Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., told Politico on Friday.

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