Apple and Epic Games are back at it: This time, Apple is urging a federal appeals court to uphold the company's victory against the gaming company. Epic is appealing the original decision, which for the most part sided with Apple, claiming that the iPhone maker's App Store is a monopoly. Apple on Thursday said that claim is "unfounded."
Apple and Epic have been at war over the former's App Store commission model since 2020, when Epic launched a third-party app store and began offering Fortnite players discounts to use the direct-payment workaround as a way to avoid Apple’s 30% cut of in-app purchases. That legal battle mostly ended in Apple's favor last September, with one caveat: A judge decided that Apple's ban on links to third-party payment options in iOS apps was anticompetitive. The company won a stay on that ruling and has not yet been forced to allow developers to link out to alternative payment platforms.
The battle has on several occasions left the courtroom and entered the public forum. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney called for a singular app store that would work on all operating systems in November, for example, arguing that “Apple must be stopped.” Other companies, including Spotify, Tile and Match, have also accused Apple of anticompetitive behavior.
Epic also took aim at Google over its Play Store policies, but Google this week announced plans to pilot third-party payment options on Android, starting with Spotify.
In the Netherlands, where Apple is now being forced to allow alternative payments, the company is levying a 27% fee on developers who choose to use third-party billing. Those developers are also required to create new versions of their apps for approval in the iOS App Store. The company has been fined multiple times for what Dutch authorities say is noncompliance with antitrust laws, but it doesn't seem to care much.
In Europe, where regulators just agreed on rules that would force tech giants to open up their ecosystems, Apple may be required to allow third-party billing options, along with the ability to side-load apps outside of the iOS App Store. When the Digital Markets Act takes effect, which is expected to happen in 2023, Apple will also have to start opening up iMessage to work with other messaging apps. If those rules inspire U.S. lawmakers to enact similarly strict legislation, Epic Games will be the least of Apple's worries.
In the meantime, the Apple v. Epic appeals process is expected to continue into next year. According to the Wall Street Journal, 35 state attorneys general and the U.S. Justice Department have filed briefs in support of Epic's appeal.