Epic Games has taken its fight against Apple’s App Store rules to the EU, where it has complained to the bloc’s antitrust regulators.
In a blog post today, the maker of the popular online game Fortnite said it is expanding its fight for Europe for what they call a “fairer digital platform for developers and consumers”, noting that the block is already looking at competition issues related to the Apple App Store. (and the payment service, Apple Pay).
The EU launched a formal inquiry into certain Apple practices last year.
Regional legislators have also recently drawn up a plan to extend platform regulation to put specific strictures on “gatekeeper”
“The complaint, filed with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, claims that Apple, through a series of carefully designed anti-competitive restrictions, has not only harmed but completely eliminated competition in app distribution and payment processes,” Epic writes, adding: “Apple exercises control over the iOS ecosystem to be to its own advantage while blocking competitors, and its conduct is an abuse of a dominant position and contrary to EU competition law. “
It is not seeking compensation from Apple, but wants the EU competition authorities to take legal action against what they describe as the iPhone manufacturer’s “monopoly channels”.
“What is at stake here is the very future of mobile platforms,” Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney said in a statement. “Consumers have the right to install apps from sources they choose, and developers have the right to compete in a fair marketplace. We will not stand still and let Apple use its platform dominance to control what should be an equally digital playing field. It is bad for consumers who pay inflated prices due to complete lack of competition among stores and payment processing in the app. And it’s bad for developers, whose livelihoods often depend on Apple’s full judgment of who to allow on the iOS platform, and on what terms. ”
Epic launched a US lawsuit against Apple in August last year after Apple banned Fortnite from the App Store.
The technology giant made the move after Epic tried to circumvent its in-app purchases framework (and circumvent the cut Apple is taking) by adding its own payment mechanism to Fortnite to allow users to purchase in-game currency directly – in violation of Apple’s rules.
In addition to banning Fortnight, Apple said it would go further and revoke Epic’s developer account and access to developer tools for Unreal Engine – a move that would have affected third-party app makers who depend on Epic’s engine. However, it was banned from going that far.
A US judge quickly denied Epic’s move to force Apple to unblock the game, but Cupertino was ordered not to block Epic’s ability to offer and distribute its Unreal Engine on iOS – which limited Apple’s ability to take a scorched earth approach. to try to close Epic’s match.
Since then, Epic has filed legal complaints against Apple in Australia and the United Kingdom. It is now also desired by EU regulators.
The EU antitrust division meanwhile opened a formal investigation into Apple last summer – more than a year after European-based streaming service Spotify filed a similar complaint over “restrictive” App Store rules and 30% cut Cupertino takes on iOS payments in the app.
The commission said at the time that an unnamed e-book / audiobook distributor had also complained about the impact of the App Store rules on competition.
It confirmed today that it has received a complaint of Epic Games vs. Apple. “We will assess it based on our standard procedures, “said a spokesman for the commission.
Epic’s argument is that Apple denies Fortnight users on iOS a choice between Apple payment and Epic direct payment – and claims that savings will be given to direct buyers (although Epic of course stands to make money if it can open a channel that bypasses Apple cuts on-app payments).
Epic has also tried to pressure Apple to run an Epic Games Store on iOS – a move Apple refused, citing the “demanding standards of security, privacy and content” which they claim are based on the App Store rules (even Apple’s claims of “quality” curing do not always live up to reality in what it allows to be used on the App Store).
Back in 2019, Apple also launched its own game distribution service, Apple Arcade – a pure game content game that provides access to new and exclusive games that can be played over Apple’s device ecosystem.
That move was perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back in front of Epic Games, and decided to go into an antitrust fight with Apple. (The blog post refers to the Apple Arcade, noting that Apple has banned competitors, including itself, from doing the same).
It is worth noting that Epic has also squared itself into Google, which similarly takes a cut in payments in apps of Android apps distributed via the Play Store – and which also removed Fortnight from the Play Store last year.
However, Google’s Android platform allows side-loading of third-party apps and alternative app stores, which no doubt makes it harder to get an antitrust case to stick to the tighter restrictions used by Apple.
At the same time, however, Android dominates the market share for smartphones – while Apple’s cut in the global market is less than a fifth.