Appellate court reaffirms Apple’s store is not monopolist but must still allow third-party purchasing options

why does this continue

The three year-long legal fight between Apple and Epic finally made another step forward yesterday, but since it has been that long, allow us a moment to recap prior events.

Back in 2020, a legal battle erupted between Epic Games, Apple, and (to a somewhat lesser degree) Google, when an update to the mobile version of Fortnite quietly introduced a way for players to make app purchases outside of the App Store and Google Play’s walled gardens. This action caused the game to be kicked off of mobile platforms and started a legal war, with Apple claiming its policies were for consumer protection and Epic arguing those same policies were monopolist.

After multiple bouts of sniping in legalese, a 2021 decision found mostly in favor of Apple while also requiring the company to allow third-party purchasing options. This decision then went to the appeals process from both sides, where it sat in docket purgatory. That brings us to yesterday’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which has upheld the original 2021 ruling and effectively landed a win for Apple’s appeal.

The appellate court once again found that Apple has not violated any antitrust laws in the way it runs its App Store or in the use of its related security restrictions, and it further found that Epic did not successfully establish its “proposed market definition” or the existence of “less restrictive alternative means for Apple to accomplish the procompetitive justifications supporting iOS’s walled garden ecosystem.”

The court also upheld the requirement that Apple must remove anti-steering rules that disallowed third-party purchasing options for consumers to use if they wish, though the injunction that paused that requirement is still in place and upheld by the court.

A statement from Apple called the decision a “resounding victory,” lauded the App Store as a platform that “continues to promote competition, drive innovation, and expand opportunity,” and also mentioned that the company respectfully disagrees with the third-party purchasing requirement and is “considering further review” on the matter.

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney reacted on Twitter, saying the anti-steering decision “frees iOS developers to send consumers” to outside websites while also noting his company is considering next steps in the case.

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