Apple Wins Appeal Against Epic
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 26 April 2023

The process of the law is slow, slower than completing the last 10% of any software project, but at last we have a verdict on the question of whether Apple's App Store is a monopoly or not - it isn't, but you can direct users to your own site for payments.

jtepicgames

I don't know about you, but I'm of the opinion that the closed Apple App Store is a bad thing. My reasons are that I don't think Apple should be in sole charge of the revenue of another company. If I write an iOS app and Apple decides it's not suitable for the App Store then my investment of time, money and creativity is wasted and I have hardly any right of appeal - which is quite the reverse of Apple's position - Apple seems to have the right to appeal any decision it doesn't like until it gets the decision it wants.

In case you have missed the action, here is the short version:

At the end of 2020 Epic Games noticed that Apple was taking 30% of its revenue and was running a walled garden that restricted its freedom to make money and market games to iPhone users. The argument was that there was no competition and so the 30% was essentially an arbitrary developer tax and not just reward for services rendered. Lack of competition means that Apple has no reason to improve the way it behaves towards developers. A competing App store would mean that we could choose the outlet that did the job best.

The verdict, reached about a year later in September 2021, was that:

"The court cannot ultimately conclude that Apple is a monopolist"

This should have finished the proceedings as far as Apple was concerned, but the court ruling that it was unfair to restrict developers from using other payment methods would have cut Apple's profits. As a result Apple, and not Epic, appealed.

appstoreicon

Despite it looking at various points as if Apple would lose the appeal, it has won the case that it isn't a monopoly, but not that it can force developers to use it as the sole payment method. So essentially no change in the initial verdict. Basically the argument is that Apple isn't a monopoly because there are platforms other than the iPhone and developers are free to choose what they create programs for. Personally, I have done just that and have avoided iOS in favour of Android for many years, but I can't help noticing that I'm missing out a significant market as the result of my self-imposed restriction. A second issue is that Epic failed to demonstrate that iPhone users weren't aware of the restriction to the App Store when they selected a phone. Basically, it's not a monopoly because the users are aware that they are choosing a phone that restricts what software they can run to only the stuff that Apple approves.

Of course, Apple isn't happy with still losing the point about restricting where devs can collect their payments and it seems likely that they will appeal to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile Epic is planning what it can do to direct users to its own website for payment - if Apple ever gives in and removes the restriction.

None of this helps with the likely European legislation that will force Apple to allow third party app stores. If this comes about, will Apple make two versions of iOS?

More Information

https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/cases-of-interest/epic-games-v-apple-inc/

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 April 2023 )