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Epic Games files EU antitrust complaint against Apple

Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent
·4-min read

The maker of Fortnite has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union in the latest episode of an escalating feud between the two companies.

Epic Games has already begun proceedings against the tech giant in the US and Australia, as well as with the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal over what it claims are unfair practices around Apple’s App Store.

The legal fight between the companies dates back to last year and relates to claims by Epic that Apple uses its iOS ecosystem, including the App Store, to place an unfair burden on app developers, including by forcing them to use Apple’s payment systems for in-app purchases, from which Apple then takes a commission of up to 30%.

Last year, Fortnite, which is one of the most popular video games in the world, was removed from the App Store when Epic added a new payment option to the game which allowed players to make in-game purchases directly through Epic rather than via the App Store, something Apple said was against its App Store rules.

The same stand-off has also taken place on Google’s Android platform and Epic’s action in the UK focuses on Google as well as Apple.

In a statement on its latest complaint in the EU, which has been filed with the European Commission, the video game developer said: “Epic has faced and been harmed by Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions across payments and app distribution.

“When Epic gave Fortnite players on iOS a choice between Apple payment and Epic direct payment, passing on savings to direct purchasers, Apple retaliated by blocking Fortnite updates.

“When Epic sought to bring the Epic Games Store to iOS, Apple declined.

“And while Apple has launched its own gaming distribution service, Apple Arcade, it has barred competitors including Epic from doing the same.”

The company said it was not seeking damages from Apple, but “simply seeking fair access and competition that will benefit consumers and developers”.

A number of other firms, including music streaming platform Spotify, have also been vocal on the issue of fair competition and announced their support for Epic’s actions.

“What’s at stake here is the very future of mobile platforms,” Epic Games founder and chief executive Tim Sweeney said.

“Consumers have the right to install apps from sources of their choosing and developers have the right to compete in a fair marketplace.

“We will not stand idly by and allow Apple to use its platform dominance to control what should be a level digital playing field.

“It’s bad for consumers, who are paying inflated prices due to the complete lack of competition among stores and in-app payment processing.

“And it’s bad for developers, whose very livelihoods often hinge on Apple’s complete discretion as to who to allow on the iOS platform, and on which terms.”

Late last year, Apple announced a change to its commission scheme, confirming it would halve the charge to 15% for any developer which earns less than one million dollars per year in sales generated through the store.

At the time, Apple boss Tim Cook said he hoped the move would help “write the next chapter of creativity and prosperity on the App Store”.

“For 12 years, the App Store has helped developers turn their brightest ideas into apps that change the world,” Apple said in a statement in response to Epic’s filing.

“Our priorities have always been to provide customers with a safe and trusted place to download software and to apply the rules equally to all developers. Epic has been one of the most successful developers on the App Store, growing into a multibillion-dollar business that reaches millions of iOS customers around the world, including in the EU.

“In ways a judge has described as deceptive and clandestine, Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines that apply equally to every developer and protect customers.

“Their reckless behaviour made pawns of customers, and we look forward to making this clear to the European Commission.”