Apple appeals Fortnite antitrust ruling, asks in-app purchasing rule to be halted

Apple says it will keep Fortnite off the App Store until all appeals are exhausted.
Apple says it will keep Fortnite off the App Store until all appeals are exhausted. Photo credit: Getty Images

Apple has asked a US federal judge to put on hold orders that could require it to change some of its App Store practices and said that it is also appealing the ruling in an antitrust case brought by Fortnite creator Epic Games, according to court filings.

US district Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers largely ruled in Apple's favour in September after a weeks-long trial. But she did require one key concession.

Apple, starting December 9, could no longer prohibit app developers from including buttons or links in their apps that direct users to means of paying beside Apple's in-app payment system, which charges a commission to developers.

Developers earning over US$1 million per year currently pay Apple a 30 percent commission for sales made through the App Store. 

Epic Games tried to circumvent the App Store system by offering its own in-app purchase options, meaning no commission would be paid. Apple then banned the app, with Epic suing in return.

In her full 180-page ruling, Gonzalez Rogers expressed concern that developers were being prevented from communicating with iPhone users about alternative prices.

Apple said in the filing that complying with the order could cause it and consumers harm. It said it expects to win an appeal challenging the order and that it wants the legal process, which could last about a year, to play out first.

Epic separately is appealing the judge's finding that Apple has not violated antitrust law through its payment rules.

"The requested stay will allow Apple to protect consumers and safeguard its platform while the company works through the complex and rapidly evolving legal, technological, economic issues," the filing said.

Apple in recent months agreed to loosen other rules about communications between developers and users as part of settlements with developers suing the company and Japan's antitrust regulator.

The company said it has already begun discussing solutions that both satisfy Gonzalez Rogers' request for consumers to be more informed and its desires to keep them protected from scams and continue collecting commissions.

Apple is seeking a hearing with Gonzalez Rogers in early November on its stay request. Epic's opening arguments for its appeal are due December 12.

Apple has said it would keep Fortnite off the App Store until all appeals are exhausted.

Judge Rogers also ruled that Apple could bar the Fortnite game from its App Store but must not harm Epic's developer tools business, which includes the Unreal Engine software used by hundreds of other video games.

In February this year the UK antitrust tribunal ruled Epic Games wasn't allowed to pursue its case against Apple in the United Kingdom over the same issues.

Earlier this year Apple made some concessions around in-app purchases, including allowing developers to contact users without the app system to inform them of other purchase opportunities. 

Reuters / Newshb