App Store Verdict: Appeals Court Rules Developers Can Link to External Payments


An appeals court has upheld important parts of a previous decision, which means the legal dispute between Epic Games and Apple on antitrust issues is still ongoing. A judgment that was primarily viewed as a win for Apple was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court determined that Apple did not break antitrust rules with its restricted App Store and security constraints. It also came to the conclusion that Apple could not uphold anti-steering policies that forbid customers from being notified of different payment methods.

Apple asserts that nine out of ten claims were upheld in this judgement, reiterating its success in the lawsuit. “The App Store continues to promote competition, drive innovation, and expand opportunity,” said an Apple representative. “We’re proud of its profound contributions to both users and developers around the world.”

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, replied to the decision on Twitter by praising the rejection of Apple’s anti-steering policies while accepting Apple’s success at the Ninth Circuit Court. According to Sweeney, this decision frees iOS developers to send customers to the web so they can conduct business there.

When Apple pulled Fortnite from the App Store in 2020, Epic Games’ decision to allow customers to avoid Apple’s commission and utilize its own payment processor led to a legal fight. Following that, Epic Games filed a lawsuit against Apple, charging it with unfair and anti-competitive practices. In 2021, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Apple does not have a monopoly on the market for mobile apps, but she also ordered Epic to pay damages for breaking the terms of Apple’s developer agreement and told the company to get rid of its anti-steering rules.

The most recent decision admits that the district court made mistakes in its decision-making, but it views these mistakes as harmless. Additionally, it highlights the fact that Epic was unable to prove the validity of its proposed market definition and the availability of less onerous alternatives for Apple to use in order to fulfill the procompetitive grounds underpinning iOS’ walled garden ecosystem.

The current legal battle between Apple and Epic Games is a part of a larger debate over antitrust issues in the tech sector. The result has effects on app store pricing, policy, and the balance of power between platform operators and developers. The case has been appealed in numerous ways by both businesses, and the legal process is still receiving interest outside of the IT sector. In an effort to allay antitrust worries, Apple recently changed its policies to permit “reader” apps to link to their own websites instead than requiring in-app purchases. However, the larger discussion regarding the impact of market-dominant internet platforms on the economy and democracy continues.

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