A major ruling has been made in the Epic vs Apple lawsuit that could have huge consequences for the App Store moving forward.
An injunction issued as part of the long-running Epic vs Apple lawsuit would prevent Apple from requiring developers to use its own payment methods in App Store games and apps – a landmark ruling that could make the once-walled garden that is the App Store much more competitive.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued the injunction (opens in new tab) today, September 10, and it's scheduled to take effect in 90 days on December 9. It specifies that Apple is "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."
To parse that legalese, the court has essentially ruled that app and game developers can now use third-party payment methods for apps and games hosted on the App Store, thus allowing them to work around Apple's 30% transaction fee.
The lawsuit had come about because Epic updated Fortnite mobile with a direct purchase option that circumvented Apple's restrictions, which saw the game removed from the iOS store. For all the case's tangents, Apple's allegedly monopolistic monetization policies have always been at the center of Epic's lawsuit.
In a series of tweets (opens in new tab), Epic CEO Tim Sweeney affirmed that "Fortnite will return to the iOS App Store when and where Epic can offer in-app payment in fair competition with Apple in-app payment, passing along the savings to consumers." He also stressed that "Today’s ruling isn't a win for developers or for consumers. Epic is fighting for fair competition among in-app payment methods and app stores for a billion consumers."
Today’s ruling isn't a win for developers or for consumers. Epic is fighting for fair competition among in-app payment methods and app stores for a billion consumers. https://t.co/cGTBxThnsPSeptember 10, 2021
This injunction will reinforce and add to changes which Apple recently announced in response to a different lawsuit. The company said it would allow developers to share information about third-party payment methods with players via external communication, but it must now allow developers to integrate those methods directly.
It's worth noting that the full ruling is less clear-cut than this injunction may imply. While the court ruled "that Apple's conduct in enforcing anti-steering restrictions is anticompetitive," it did not find "that Apple is an antitrust monopolist in the submarket for mobile gaming transactions." And though Epic is undeniably the winner today, and it's far from the only developer that will benefit from these App Store changes, it will still be forced to pay Apple 30% of the $12,167,719 in revenue that it received during the brief window that Fortnite allowed direct payments on iOS, on top of additional damages.
Of course, this won't be the end of the Epic vs Apple lawsuit. As the injunction notes, either party can seek to modify this ruling, and Apple is expected to appeal its case and bring it to a higher court.
Thanks to everyone who put so much time and effort into the battle over fair competition on digital platforms, and thanks especially to the court for managing a very complex case on a speedy timeline. We will fight on.September 10, 2021
Apple subpoenaed Steam, which has also come under fire for its store fee at various points, for supporting information when the lawsuit was relatively young.