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Epic brings its Apple beef to London

By | Published on Friday 15 January 2021

Epic Games logo

Good news for all you UK-based competition law spat fans who have been enjoying the big bust up between ‘Fortnite’ maker Epic Games and the big bad conglomerate that is Apple Inc, but desperately wished there could be some quality spat action closer to home. It turns out Epic is taking its big Apple battle on a world tour, next stop London.

Epic, you may remember, reckons that Apple violates all kinds of competition laws by forcing app makers to use its commission charging payment platform for any transactions that occur within an iOS app. Not only that, but Apple’s bullshit rules say that app makers can’t even signpost alternative payment options – for example via a web page – within an iOS app. And that’s bullshit.

Bored of the bullshit, Epic plonked an alternative payment option into the iOS version of its ‘Fortnite’ app last August. Apple promptly kicked ‘Fortnite’ out of its App Store on the basis its rules had been violated, meaning that iOS users can’t now download the game to their Apple devices, or update to the latest version. Epic then sued Apple in the US.

This counts as music news, by the way, because it’s not only Epic that reckons Apple’s bullshit rules are bullshit. Among the other app makers who have gone out of their way to moan relentlessly about all the bullshit is Spotify, which filed a complaint with European Union competition officials in 2019.

Apple argues that its bullshit rules are not, in fact, bullshit, but super fair, given all the money its invested in building the iOS and App Store systems, and its ongoing bid to make the apping experience as safe and user-friendly as possible on all of its over-priced devices.

What’s actually bullshit, Apple’s lawyers like to say (well, maybe imply), is multi-billion dollar enterprises like Epic Games and Spotify pretending they are the plucky small-time up-starts when moaning about the App Store rules.

After all, if they were plucky small-time upstarts they would qualify for the 50% discount Apple now offers on payments it processes for plucky small-time upstart app-makers as part of an initiative launched in November, that definitely wasn’t sneakily intended to take wider app community support away from Epic and Spotify.

Anyway, to date most of this spatting has been happening before American judges (in the case of Epic) and EU officials (in the case of Spotify). But fuck that, if you’re going to spat properly, you need to take your spat to a proper British judge in a proper British court for some proper British justice. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that?

It’s now emerged that Epic made a filing with the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal in London last month formally arguing that Apple’s bullshit rules violate all the British laws that exist to stop bullshit. And also some EU laws too, but who the fuck cares about that?

By kicking ‘Fortnite’ out of the App Store, reckons Epic, Apple has “abused its dominant position contrary to section eighteen of the [UK Competition Act 1998] and/or Article 102 of the Treaty On The Functioning of the European Union, and engaged in anti-competitive agreements / concerted practices in the UK and EU contrary to section two of the act and/or article 101 TFEU”.

To that end, Epic asks the Competition Appeal Tribunal for “a declaration that the removal of the ‘Fortnite’ app from the App Store in the UK … was unlawful”, and an order that requires Apple to “restore the ‘Fortnite’ app … to the App Store in the UK”.

What does Apple think about all this? Well, it told Law360 this week: “Epic has been one of the most successful developers on the App Store, growing into a multi-billion dollar business that reaches millions of iOS customers around the world, including the United Kingdom. Their reckless behaviour made pawns of customers, and we look forward to making this clear to courts in the UK”.

It remains to be seen how the UK strand of the Epic v Apple spat now proceeds, but how exciting is it that the ‘Fortnite’ maker recognised that – having begun legal proceedings in the US – the next stop for the fight was Brexit Britain? Oh, what, they actually went legal in Australia on this last November? OK, not that exciting then. Fuck Epic. That’s bullshit.

I should maybe also mention that, like in the US, Epic has launched proceedings in the UK against Google and its App Store rules too. But who cares about that? I don’t think even Google cares about that.