Apple Inc. could be in the crosshairs of a potential antitrust lawsuit by the Justice Department by the end of the year.
The iPhone maker has been under investigation by the Justice Department for more than three years over charges from developers that it has abused its market power to stifle competition. It remains unclear if the department will pursue a formal case, according to a report in Politico on Friday, citing people with direct knowledge of the matter.
The Justice Department is considering a case against Apple
at the same time it is expected to file an antitrust action against Alphabet Inc.’s
Google over its dominant online ad business.
Read more: Justice Department expected to file antitrust lawsuit against Google as soon as September: report
The Justice Department declined to comment to Politico on its report. Apple declined to comment.
Apple’s stock was down more than 3% in late-afternoon trading Friday.
Last year, Epic Games Inc. went to trial against Apple over the App Store restrictions on its Fortnite videogame. Apple largely won the three-week-long case, which was attended by Justice Department prosecutors.
Should Justice Department proceed with cases against Apple and Google, it would signal a significant escalation in actions by regulators and lawmakers to rein in the business practices of the tech industry’s biggest names.
Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and Congress are working on legal actions and legislation after more than two years of Congressional hearings into the matter.
Read more: As Congress flounders in Big Tech regulation push, the FTC isn’t waiting around
The FTC has been especially aggressive of late, having sued Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc.
in July to block its planned acquisition of virtual-reality startup Within Unlimited. The agency is also pursuing an antitrust investigation of Amazon.com Inc.
for its retail and cloud computing businesses.
The ratcheting of investigations coincide with a long-delayed full Senate vote on legislation that would ban the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon from favoring their products and services over smaller competitors on their vast digital platforms.
Nonetheless, analysts such as Evercore ISI’s Amit Daryanani believe Apple is “well positioned to win any potential lawsuit related to the App Store” though the announcement of a case is “certainly a headline risk.”
“We continue to view Apple as the least at risk among big tech,” Daryanani said in a note Friday that maintains Apple shares as outperform with a price target of $185.