Epic Games, producer of Fortnite, uploads a new map in its ongoing battle against Apple when it files an antitrust complaint against the EU̵
Epic claims in its complaint that Apple uses its sole control over iOS apps to block competitors and take advantage of itself at the developer’s expense in violation of European competition law, the company said today.
“What is at stake here is the very future of mobile platforms,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said in a written statement. “We will not stand still and let Apple use its platform dominance to control what should be like digital rules of the game. It is bad for consumers, who pay inflated prices due to complete lack of competition among stores and payment in app processing. And it’s bad for developers, whose livelihoods often depend on Apple’s full judgment of who should allow on the iOS platform, and on what terms. “
Apple, for its part, said Epic is the sole author of its own issues, writing that the company activated a feature “that was not reviewed or approved by Apple,” and intentionally and provocatively violated Apple’s developer agreement by doing so. “Their reckless behavior made customers pledge, and we look forward to making this clear to the European Commission,” Apple claimed.
An ongoing battle
Apple is not mistaken in saying that Epic broke the rules on purpose. That was exactly what Epic did in August last year, when it suddenly unveiled an alternative payment system in the app for Fortnite purchase on Android and iOS.
Apple explicitly requires that all purchases in the app go through its own payment system, where it takes a 30 percent cut in sales. Shortly after Epic launched its alternative payment system – which gave players a discount on purchases to make the point – Apple launched Fortnite from the iOS app store. Epic, clearly ready and waiting, immediately filed a lawsuit alleging that Apple violated antitrust law.
That case is still moving slowly through federal court and will last for some time. For now, Fortnite is still blocked from iOS, but other games that use the Epics Unreal engine are currently allowed. The judge in charge of the case has also dropped some of Apple’s counterclaims against Epic.
A complaint of complaints
As we have explained before, you do not have to have a literal monopoly over a market to be in violation of the antitrust law. Instead, the law is concerned with how you use the power you have. Although Apple controls a minority of the global smartphone market (Android has a larger market share both in the US and worldwide), it can still leverage its business in competitive ways.
Epic is not the first to complain that Apple’s iOS App Store is illegal, and it seems unlikely to be the last. Especially in the EU, Spotify filed a similar complaint against Apple back in 2019.
Spotify must also use Apple’s in-app payment system to make purchases, including subscription fees. Over time, according to Spotify, Apple made it increasingly difficult for app manufacturers to direct users to pay outside Apple’s ecosystem, such as through a website. In 2014, Spotify began buying apps on iOS on iOS, but increased prices by 30 percent – from almost 10 euros ($ 12) a month to almost 13 euros ($ 15.54) a month – to cover Apple fees.
Because Apple also owns and operates its own music service, Spotify claimed, the fee from Apple is directly restrictive of competition and harms competitors who challenge Apple’s own first-party apps by putting them at a price reduction. The messaging app Telegram also submitted a similar complaint to European regulators in 2020.
Apple’s app store practices are also under investigation here in the United States. In October last year, a congressional report examining the market power of Big Tech companies concluded that Apple uses the App Store in an exclusive way. The committee responsible for writing the report found evidence that Apple’s management, including former CEO Steve Jobs, had “acknowledged” [in-app payment] The claim would stifle competition and limit the apps available to Apple customers. “