Jul 23, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Apple faces multi-state consumer protection probe

Illustration of a lone figure standing in the center of an Apple shaped spotlight.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Multiple states are investigating Apple for potentially deceiving consumers, according to a March document uncovered by a tech watchdog group.

The big picture: Apple is already facing antitrust investigations from U.S. House lawmakers and the European Union. Meanwhile, states have stepped up their scrutiny of Big Tech, including through multi-state antitrust probes of Facebook and Google.

Details: The Texas attorney general may sue Apple for violating the state’s deceptive trade practices law in connection with a multi-state investigation, according to the document, obtained by the Tech Transparency Project through a public records request and shared with Axios Thursday.

  • The Texas AG’s Consumer Protection Division “initiated this investigation for enforcement purposes. If violations are uncovered, CPD will initiate enforcement proceedings. Accordingly, the OAG anticipates litigation in this matter,” the document reads.
  • The state’s consumer protection law polices practices deemed false, deceptive or misleading.

It's not clear what specific practices Texas or any other states are looking into or the current status of the investigation. The document doesn't describe the investigation in detail or identify the other states involved.

  • The Tech Transparency Project, a critic of Big Tech's power and the research arm of the Campaign for Accountability, received the document in response to a March request for communications related to Apple or with Apple employees or representatives .

What they're saying: A spokesperson for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said it is "long-standing OAG policy" not to "comment on, confirm or deny any pending or potential investigations." (Nevertheless, Texas has been public about its role in investigating Google.)

  • Apple declined comment.
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