Apple Seeks Pause On Epic Games Antitrust Ruling

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As appeal against ruling on Epic Games lawsuit begins, Apple asks US judge to put on hold orders to change App Store practices

Apple asked a US federal judge last week to hold off on an order for it to change some of its App Store practices.

Apple last Friday appealed the ruling in the antitrust case brought by “Fortnite” creator Epic Games, Reuters reported, citing court filings.

Last month US district Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers had effectively ruled in Apple’s favour after it had been sued over its App Store policies.

However there was one ruling that did not go Apple’s way, and it is a significant issue for the iPhone maker.

Judge rulings

As a reminder, Judge Rogers had on 12 September ruled in favour of Apple in nine of the ten claims Epic brought against the company.

Epic Games vowed to fight on however and said it will appeal, after CEO Tim Sweeney complained that Apple has indefinitely blacklisted the Fortnite game from its App Store, until legal appeals are completed – a process that can take up to five years.

Judge Rogers had stopped short of some of the drastic changes sought by Epic – for instance allowing Apple to continue charging its 15 to 30 percent commissions on in-app payments using its system.

She also refused to force Apple to open the iPhone up to third-party app stores.

Judge Rogers also declined to classify Apple as a monopolist, agreeing with the company that it faces competition in mobile gaming.

App Store change

But Apple did lose in one important way, when the judge found that Apple violated California’s anti-steering rules.

She ordered Apple to make a major change to its App Store, for the first time allowing developers to send their users to alternative payment systems.

Essentially from 9 December 2021, Apple is ordered to no longer prohibit app developers from including buttons or links in their apps that will direct users to means of paying beside Apple’s in-app payment system, which charges a commission to developers.

Gonzalez Rogers’ decision could have a significant impact on Apple’s bottom line, since gaming companies are the biggest revenue generators for the App Store and the company’s $53.8 billion (£39bn) services business.

The judge ordered Apple to implement her ruling within 90 days.

Ruling appeals

Reuters reported that Apple on Friday said in its filing that complying with the App Store order could cause it and consumers harm.

Apple reportedly said it expects to win an appeal challenging the order, and that it wants the legal process, which could last about a year, to play out first.

“The requested stay will allow Apple to protect consumers and safeguard its platform while the company works through the complex and rapidly evolving legal, technological, economic issues,” Friday’s filing said.

Epic meanwhile is also appealing the judge’s ruling that Apple has not violated antitrust law through its payment rules.

Easing restrictions

Apple it should be noted has made a number of concessions over the past year.

In November 2020 Apple said it new App Store commission would fall from 30 percent down to 15 percent for small developers and businesses earning up to $1 million per year.

More recently Apple agreed to allow small app developers to email their users about alternative purchase options to the App Store billing

Then in early September, Apple added another App Store concession, with a new rule change in response to an investigation initiated by Japan’s Fair Trade Commission.

This will allow companies with “reader apps”, such as Spotify and Netflix, to direct customers to their own websites to make payments, allowing them to more easily avoid fees levied by the App Store.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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