A judge this morning issued a ruling in California’s Epic v. Apple case, siding with the Fortnite maker on the topic of third-party payments. Effectively, the judge has ruled that Apple cannot prohibit developers from adding links for alternative payments beyond Apple’s App Store-based monetization.
The mobile giant’s control over fees on iOS has long been a sticking point for Epic and the veritable cash cow of its in-gaming micro-transactions.
The ruling notes, in part,
Apple Inc. and its officers, agents, servants, employees, and any person in active concert or participation with them (“Apple”), are hereby permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from (i) including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and (ii) communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.
We’ve reached out to Apple and Epic for comment on this morning’s ruling.
After Apple banned Epic Games’ Fortnite for its implementation of a new payment mechanism that allowed it to bypass Apple’s in-app purchase framework last August, the game maker sued Apple, alleging it was abusing its market power to force companies to use Apple’s payment systems. Epic Games also sued Google and joined up with other app developers to form the Coalification for App Fairness, a group that actively lobbied for app store reform, including by involving itself in individual efforts to generate legislation at the state level in the U.S.
In recent weeks, Apple has made a few minor tweaks to its App Store rules as the result of other lawsuits and legislation, which included a settlement with a Japanese regulator that saw the tech giant change its policies for “reader apps”– apps that provide access to purchased content — that would allow them to point users to their own website where users could sign up and manage their accounts. Another settlement gave developers permission to use customer contact information collected inside their app to tell customers about other payment options. And in South Korea, a new law forced Apple and Google to allow developers to use their own third-party payment systems.
Apple’s refusal to adapt its App Store rules to the changing environment, it has historically argued, is about consumer protections. In prior statements, allowing alternative means of in-app purchases could put users at risk of fraud and undermine their privacy, the company has said.
While today’s ruling will force Apple to now accommodate developers by allowing them the choice to include buttons or links to other places where they can pay, still won in the sense that it was not deemed a monopoly.
“Today the Court has affirmed what we’ve known all along: the App Store is not in violation of antitrust law,” an Apple spokesperson said. “As the Court recognized ‘success is not illegal.’ Apple faces rigorous competition in every segment in which we do business, and we believe customers and developers choose us because our products and services are the best in the world. We remain committed to ensuring the App Store is a safe and trusted marketplace that supports a thriving developer community and more than 2.1 million U.S. jobs, and where the rules apply equally to everyone.”