In a big win for Fortnite creator Epic Games, a judge has ruled that Apple must allow app developers to direct users to payment options beyond those offered by Apple. The decision, which came out today, resolves a monthslong antitrust case brought by Epic, after Apple booted its popular video game from the App Store last year.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said Apple is: “permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from (i) including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and (ii) communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.”
The order goes into effect 90 days from now, unless Apple can get a higher court to pause the injunction.
Ironically, Epic lost on all the other counts in this case. Judge Gonzalez Rogers ruled Apple doesn’t violate antitrust law by charging a 30% commission on in-app purchases completed through its payment system. She also ruled that Epic breached its contract by directing Fortnite players to an outside payment system—the move that got Fortnite banned. Apple therefore gets 30% of the revenue Epic made through that alternative payment system. Apple can also keep the App Store as the sole download method for iOS devices. (Epic wanted the court to essentially allow rival app stores—which would have been a massive hit to Apple’s profits.)
In a statement, Apple told Fast Company that the decision “affirmed what we’ve known all along: the App Store is not in violation of antitrust law.” It also quoted one line to note the ruling “recognized ‘success is not illegal,'” and added that the company remains “committed to ensuring the App Store is a safe and trusted marketplace that supports a thriving developer community.”
Gonzalez Rogers ultimately said the restriction requiring developers to use Apple’s payment system violated California state law. Apple has to eliminate that provision from contracts, which will effectively change the way the App Store has operated since the very beginning. The big effect is the end-around it gives developers to bypass Apple’s 30% cut, putting a dent in its profitability. The App Store is said to generate over $20 billion a year for Apple.
The headline of this story was updated to better reflect the ruling and the distinction between in-app purchases and Apple’s payment system.