The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has just decided to maintain Apple’s App Store payment regulations temporarily, dismissing an earlier request from Epic Games that sought to put an immediate stop to the policy, reports Bloomberg.
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The request from Epic Games aimed to enable developers to guide iPhone users toward alternative payment methods, which would have put an end to Apple’s infamous “anti-steering” App Store policy. Today’s ruling was delivered by Justice Elena Kagan, who ruled that an earlier decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cannot go into immediate effect just yet.
Today’s ruling by Justice Kagan is likely to be a temporary one, Bloomberg adds, and is set to be enacted in place until Apple files an appeal with SCOTUS to completely reverse the lower Circuit Court’s decision. If SCOTUS refuses to hear Apple’s appeal, the company will be left with no choice but to completely scrap its anti-steering App Store policy, allowing developers to redirect consumers to non-Apple payment options.
The original order, which the Circuit Court brought forward, requires Apple to accept the addition of links and buttons to external payment options in third-party apps that can redirect consumers to make payments outside the App Store. Today’s decision from SCOTUS is yet another blow to Epic Games and other developers, as Apple will likely get to keep its anti-steering policy in practice till SCOTUS looks into the latter’s appeal.
No end in sight for Epic Games v. Apple
The order made by the Circuit Court was part of the Epic Games v. Apple antitrust trial, in which Epic Games alleges that Apple’s practices and policies pertaining to the App Store are monopolistic, preventing alternative app stores and payment methods from co-existing on the iPhone and iPad. Epic Games first sued Apple in 2020 after the latter removed Fortnite from the App Store after an update to the game that included an external payment solution in a bid to avoid paying Apple’s 30% fee on in-app purchases.
Epic Games lost its most recent appeal against Apple, as the Circuit Court sided with the latter during an April 2023 hearing. While it was ruled that the App Store policies are not monopolistic, the Court ordered Apple to repeal its anti-steering policy, allowing developers to redirect users to external payment providers and thus bypassing Apple’s commission which can reach up to 30% of the total transaction fee.