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Apple just took a major loss for its App Store. Here’s what happened

What the ruling means for the future of apps, Apple and video games.

SHARE Apple just took a major loss for its App Store. Here’s what happened
Apple’s App Store app in Baltimore.

This March 19, 2018, file photo shows Apple’s App Store app in Baltimore. Over the past week or so, Apple has eased some longstanding restrictions that helped make its App Store into a big moneymaker for the company.

Patrick Smeansky, Associated Press

A federal judge ruled Friday that Apple can’t prohibit developers from providing links or other messaging that sends users away from Apple’s in-app purchasing.

  • Or, said another away, Apple can’t force developers to use in-app purchasing.

The decision comes as developers have complained about not having the chance to direct users to their own websites, subscriptions or digital content.

Federal Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers made the ruling on Friday. She ruled that Apple had violated the California’s Unfair Competition Law when it forced Fortnite and its developer Epic Games to use Apple’s payment system on the App Store instead of its own, according to CNN. Apple often makes 30% commission on every purchase.

She issued an injunction for Apple that will take effect in December, according to CNBC.

  • “The Court concludes that Apple’s anti-steering provisions hide critical information from consumers and illegally stifle consumer choice,” Rogers wrote, per CNBC. “When coupled with Apple’s incipient antitrust violations, these anti-steering provisions are anticompetitive and a nationwide remedy to eliminate those provisions is warranted.”

However, according to CNN, the judge said that she could not say Apple is a monopoly.

  • “Given the trial record, the Court cannot ultimately conclude that Apple is a monopolist under either federal or state antitrust laws,” the court documents read, according to CNN. “Success is not illegal. The final trial record did not include evidence of other critical factors, such as barriers to entry and conduct decreasing output or decreasing innovation in the relevant market.”

The lawsuit began back in August 2020 when Epic Games offered discounts to its digital items in Fortnite if they were purchased through Epic, rather than through Apple and Google’s payment systems, according to my report for the Deseret News.

  • In response, Fortnite — the popular battle royale video game — was removed from the Apple App Store on iPhones.
  • Epic Games then decided to sue Apple over the matter, saying “Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market.”

Apple did not say if it would appeal the injunction. However, the company said the ruling does not change what the company has said for awhile — that the App Store is safe, trusted and a fair place for businesses.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said the ruling was not a win.

  • “Today’s ruling isn’t a win for developers or for consumers,” Sweeney tweeted. “Epic is fighting for fair competition among in-app payment methods and app stores for a billion consumers.”