Business News Digital Legal

US appeals court confirms original ruling in Epic’s Apple App Store dispute

By | Published on Tuesday 25 April 2023


The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court in the US has upheld much of a lower court ruling in the big old legal battle between Fortnite maker Epic Games and Apple over the latter’s App Store rules.

Epic, like Spotify, objects to Apple’s rule that forces app makers to use the tech giant’s commission charging transactions system when taking in-app payments on iOS devices, and another rule that restricts the sign-posting of alternative payment options elsewhere on the internet.

Whereas Spotify has mainly put pressure on lawmakers and regulators to intervene in this domain, Epic launched lawsuits against Apple in various jurisdictions claiming that the App Store rules are anti-competitive and therefore a violation of competition laws, or antitrust laws if you prefer.

The highest profile of those lawsuits was the one in the Californian courts. The judge hearing that case mainly sided with Apple, concluding that Epic had failed to prove that the tech firm violated federal antitrust laws in the US. However, she did also decide that the rules against sign-posting other payments options – often called the anti-steering provisions – violated Californian law.

Both sides appealed, but mainly without success. Although the appeal judges didn’t agree with everything in the original judgement in this case, any quibbles didn’t affect the outcome. Epic hasn’t successfully proven any violations of federal antitrust law on Apple’s part. But the anti-steering rules do violate Californian law.

“Today’s decision reaffirms Apple’s resounding victory in this case, with nine of ten claims having been decided in Apple’s favour”, said the tech giant in response to the appeal court’s ruling.

“For the second time in two years, a federal court has ruled that Apple abides by antitrust laws at the state and federal levels. The App Store continues to promote competition, drive innovation, and expand opportunity, and we’re proud of its profound contributions to both users and developers around the world”.

As for the ruling on the anti-steering provisions, it added, “we respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling on the one remaining claim under state law and are considering further review”.

Epic boss Tim Sweeney acknowledged the loss on Twitter, though added “fortunately, the court’s positive decision rejecting Apple’s anti-steering provisions frees iOS developers to send consumers to the web to do business with them directly there. We’re working on next steps”.

Beyond the courts, Spotify and Epic also hope that lawmakers in US Congress might intervene on all this via the Open App Markets Act, which Spotify boss Daniel Ek was busy bigging up in Washington last week.