Apple Must Loosen App Payment System, Court Rules In Epic Games Case

A US judge on Friday ordered Apple to loosen control of its App Store, preventing it from forcing developers to use its payment system, in a high-profile antitrust case brought by Epic Games. The Fortnite maker said it would appeal, while Apple was still studying the ruling.

Epic launched the case with the aim of breaking Apple’s grip on the App Store, and the ruling could have far-reaching consequences on the digital economy.

Friday’s order says Apple is permanently banned from developers from including “external links or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms” in their applications.

United States District Court Judge Yvonne González Rogers wrote that Apple violated California laws against unfair competition, but was not “an antitrust monopolist … for mobile game transactions.”

Apple did not promise to appeal, but Epic CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted “We will continue to fight” and the company confirmed its plans to challenge the verdict. Apple said it was studying the 185-page ruling, but was “very happy” with the decision.

The two companies clashed over whether Apple had the right to set ground rules, control payment systems, and drive non-compliant apps out of its market.

Also at stake was Apple’s revenue share of iPhone apps of up to 30 percent.

Apple kicked Fortnite out of its online mobile marketplace after Epic released an update that sidestepped revenue sharing with the iPhone maker.

Apple does not allow users of its popular devices to download applications from anywhere other than its App Store.

The California federal court case came when Apple felt pressure from a wide range of app makers on its control of the App Store, which critics say represents monopolistic behavior.

Today’s decision is not a victory for developers or consumers. Epic is fighting for fair competition between in-app payment methods and app stores for one billion consumers. https://t.co/cGTBxThnsP

– Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) September 10, 2021

‘Fighting for fair competition’

“Today, the Court has affirmed what we have known all along: the App Store does not violate antitrust law,” the iPhone maker said in a statement. “As the Court recognized, ‘success is not illegal.’

Sweeney said the ruling was not “a victory for developers or consumers.”

“Epic is fighting for fair competition between in-app payment methods and app stores for one billion consumers,” he tweeted.

Apple opened its App Store in July 2008, a year after the first iPhone was launched.

The store, equipped with mobile applications designed for devices with iOS software, was quickly imitated by rival smartphone makers.

It ignited an entire economy in which developers, big or small, could make money with “an app for that,” from games or social media to calling car rides or ordering food.

The App Store, the single gateway to the more than 1 billion iPhones in use around the world, has grown to include more than 1.8 million apps.

Hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions take place in the App Store each year in what Apple CEO Cook has called an “economic miracle.”

( Jowhar with AFP)

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