Apple and Epic have found themselves locked in an intense legal battle over allowing purchases outside of the App Store payments system and over whether Apple was a monopoly. While Epic could not prove the latter, it did chalk up a big win on the former, assuming the ruling stands.
Update, 9/10/21: Added Apple and Epic comments on the ruling.
Judge Rules on Apple Versus Epic Fortnite Case
As first reported by The Verge, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers issued a ruling in the ongoing Apple versus Epic case. She issued a permanent injunction that says Apple is “permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms.”
That means that developers, such as Epic, can direct people to in-app payment methods outside of the App Store, thus preventing Apple from taking 30% of the transaction.
However, it’s important to note that this won’t start until December 9, 2021, which is 90 days from the ruling.
Even more important to note is that Apple will almost certainly exhaust every appeal available to it in an attempt to reverse the ruling.
The ruling also stated that Apple can’t prevent developers from “communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.” This means that developers can use the contact information obtained through the App Store to reach out to customers, similar to the ruling offered by the Japan Fair Trade Commission.
Epic also claimed that Apple was a monopoly with the current App Store situation. However, Judge Gonzalez-Rogers ruled that “the court cannot ultimately conclude that Apple is a monopolist under either federal or state antitrust laws. Nonetheless, the trial did show that Apple is engaging in anti-competitive conduct under California’s competition laws.”
Crucial nuance here: I've seen some folks saying Apple has been found to *not* be a monopolist in the Epic Games verdict. That's not quite right. The judge said Epic failed to *prove* Apple a monopolist–but she was careful to leave open the possibility that it is. pic.twitter.com/ArNvV6Owed
— Will Oremus (@WillOremus) September 10, 2021
Essentially, that means that Epic couldn’t convince the court that Apple is a monopoly, but it doesn’t unequivocally mean that Apple isn’t one.
Apple’s response to Judge’s ruling in Epic Case: pic.twitter.com/LeF4osdTQC
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) September 10, 2021
Additionally, Epic will be forced to pay Apple $3.65 million, which is 30% of the $12,167,719 Epic earned from Fortnite iOS players between August and October 2020, when Epic used its own payment system without permission. On top of that, Epic must pay Apple 30% of the revenue it earned through that method between November 1st and today.
What Does This Mean for You?
As mentioned, this will likely be appealed by Apple in every way it can. That means it could change nothing in terms of the App Store of the mobile payment landscape, or it could change everything.
This could affect both iPhone and Android users if it does stick, as Google has a similar case with Epic. If everything goes through, we could see Google Play developers cut Google out of the process like the judge has allowed App Store developers to.
Fortnite will return to the iOS App Store when and where Epic can offer in-app payment in fair competition with Apple in-app payment, passing along the savings to consumers.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) September 10, 2021
And if you’re a Fortnite fan, this ruling doesn’t mean that Apple needs to let the game back on the App Store, so even though Epic could be allowed to use outside payment systems, it may not have its most popular game available on iPhone to do so.