Epic Games has filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Apple today, following the removal of Fortnite from the App Store. Epic argues that Apple has used a “series of anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices,” specifically citing the App Store and associate In-App Purchase guidelines.
The backstory: Epic Games snuck in a direct payments feature to the Fortnite app on iPhone and iPad earlier today, allowing users to evade Apple’s In-App Purchase system. Apple responded by removing Fornite from the App Store completely, citing the violation of the review guidelines.
In the Fortnite app, Epic Games had added the ability for players to purchase the game’s virtual currency directly as opposed to using Apple’s normal In-App Purchase system. In doing so, Epic avoided the 30% commission taken by Apple: 20% of that savings was passed along to consumers, while Epic retained the remaining 10%.
In the lawsuit, Epic says that it is not looking for monetary compensation, but rather for injunctive relief to allow fair competition on Apple’s mobile devices:
Epic brings this suit to end Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multibillion dollar markets: (i) the iOS App Distribution Market, and (ii) the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market
Epic is not seeking monetary compensation from this Court for the injuries it has suffered. Nor is Epic seeking favorable treatment for itself, a single company. Instead, Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.
Epic argues that Apple’s “anti-competitive conduct” has directly harmed the Epic business, as well as Fortnite users. The company says that if it weren’t for Apple’s restraints, it would provide a competing app store for iOS users, where customers and developers could choose what payment processing systems to use:
Epic—and Fortnite’s users—are directly harmed by Apple’s anti- competitive conduct. But for Apple’s illegal restraints, Epic would provide a competing app store on iOS devices, which would allow iOS users to download apps in an innovative, curated store and would provide users the choice to use Epic’s or another third-party’s in-app payment processing tool.
Epic repeatedly contrasts the iOS App Store policies with the experience on the Mac:
Contrast this anti-competitive harm with how similar markets operate on Apple’s own Mac computers. Mac users can download virtually any software they like, from any source they like. Developers are free to offer their apps through the Mac computer App Store, a third-party store, through direct download from the developer’s website, or any combination thereof. Indeed, on Macs, Epic distributes Fortnite through its own storefront, which competes with other third-party storefronts available to Macusers. App developers are free to use Apple’s payment processing services, the payment processing services of third parties, or the developers’ own payment processing service; users are offered their choice of different payment processing options (e.g., PayPal, Amazon, and Apple). The result is that consumers and developers alike have choices, competition is thriving, prices drop, and innovation is enhanced
The Epic Games lawsuit against Apple is focused primarily on underscoring that the App Store guidelines themselves are anti-competitive, not whether or not the direct payments feature added to Fortnite was a violation of those guidelines. Its clear that Epic Games knew that its decision would lead to a public dispute with Apple, hence why the lawsuit was already prepared ahead of time.
You can read the full civil antitrust case filed by Epic Games against Apple here.
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