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Apple can’t postpone injunction that’s forcing it to allow in-app links to alternative payment options

By | Published on Wednesday 10 November 2021

Apple

A US court has declined to postpone an injunction that will force Apple to allow all app-makers to include links to alternative payment options within their iOS apps. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers concluded that the tech giant’s motion calling for that postponement was “fundamentally flawed”.

The injunction was issued in September as part of Apple’s ongoing legal battle with Fortnite maker Epic Games, which put the spotlight on the former’s App Store rules, which companies like Epic and Spotify claim are anti-competitive.

Epic has gone legal over those App Store rules in multiple countries. With the case in California, judge Rogers actually rejected most of Epic’s competition law arguments against Apple. However, she did side with the gaming company when it came to allowing app makers to sign-post other payment options.

A key restriction put on many iOS apps is that in-app payments must be taken via Apple’s own commission-charging transactions platform. Not only that, but an app maker can’t include links in the app that take users to web pages elsewhere on the internet where other payment platforms can be accessed. That latter rule is dubbed an “anti-steering” policy.

Actually, Apple is in the process of axing that “anti-steering” rule for so called ‘reader apps’ – which would include Spotify – as a result of a settlement it reached with a Japanese regulator. However, that change to the rules doesn’t help Epic. Which is why the injunction issued by Rogers was significant for the gaming company.

Apple has been busy trying to have said injunction postponed on the basis that both it and Epic are appealing the wider judgement in the Californian case. The injunction, it argued, should be paused pending the appeals. But Epic hit back, arguing that the appeals process could take years.

Yesterday Rogers said that Apple’s arguments in favour of postponing her injunction were invalid. In a pretty disparaging conclusion, she wrote: “Apple’s motion is based on a selective reading of this court’s findings and ignores all of the findings which supported the injunction, namely incipient antitrust conduct including super-competitive commission rates resulting in extraordinarily high operating margins and which have not been correlated to the value of its intellectual property”.

“This incipient antitrust conduct”, she added, “is the result, in part, of the anti-steering policies which Apple has enforced to harm competition. As a consequence, the motion [to postpone the injunction] is fundamentally flawed”.

Apple has until 9 Dec to change its App Store rule on alternative payment links, although in the meantime it plans to appeal yesterday’s ruling.



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