Apple's suit against South Korean antitrust regulator sent to Supreme Court

14 January 2019 3:34pm

8 January 2019. By Choi Hyung-jo.

Apple Korea’s lawsuit against South Korea’s antitrust regulator over its alleged failure to reveal information related to an investigation into abuse of market dominance against the US smartphone maker has been sent to the country’s Supreme Court, MLex has learned.

It is understood that Apple lost its suit against the Korea Fair Trade Commission, or KFTC, at the Seoul High Court and is appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court.

MLex previously reported that Apple Korea filed a suit in June at the Seoul High Court to challenge the KFTC’s practice of not revealing all the information it has collected against companies and withholding parts of its findings.

MLex understands that global companies such as Qualcomm and Oracle, which have had run-ins with the KFTC, made similar complaints about the commission’s practice and its lack of procedural fairness, although Apple was the first company to take legal action against the KFTC.

Aside from Apple, local antitrust lawyers have also raised concerns with other aspects of the KFTC’s investigative process, in particular its practice of ignoring attorney-client privilege.

Some in the South Korean legal community have pointed out that investigators from the KFTC have used electronic messages between lawyers and company employees as evidence in their cases, a practice that Kim Sang-jo, the chairman of the commission, has admitted to.

In addition to the suit filed at the Seoul High Court, Apple also filed a separate lawsuit at a district court demanding disclosure of information from the South Korean government. That case was rejected and dismissed by the district court, MLex understands.

Apple’s suits against the KFTC are part of the company's ongoing struggle against an investigation by the commission that started in 2016, alleging the US tech giant of abusing its market dominance against local telecoms companies.
Apple is currently in the process of hearings before the KFTC's standing committee, the first of which took place in December last year. The second hearing is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 16, where the standing committee will hear from economic experts.

That may not be the end of Apple’s troubles with the regulator, because there could be yet another probe into the company's business practices in South Korea.

Apple was recently accused by an association that represents the country's mobile-phone retailers of forcing phone distributors to buy the iPhones they use for in-store displays and demonstrations or be blocked from selling any iPhones. The association is considering lodging a formal complaint against the company with the KFTC, as MLex has reported.

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