Judge signals possible solution for Epic Games v. Apple court battle

Judge signals possible solution for Epic Games v. Apple court battle

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App Store faces barrage of antitrust charges
The judge may have dropped a hint about how she might end the court fight between Epic Games and Apple.
Photo: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels CC

If the judge in the Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit decides to rule against the iPhone-maker, she may have already signaled the significant App Store change she would order to satisfy the game developer’s complaints.

The judge asked a question that shows she’s considering allowing developers to point customers to their own websites to make in-app purchases. Currently, these purchases must go through Apple’s payment system.

Epic Games took Apple to court and is attempting to persuade a judge that the App Store is anti-competitive. It’s hoping the judge will order changes that will make games like Fortnite more profitable.

Adi Robertson from The Verge tweeted Tuesday during the trial, giving frequent updates on the proceedings.

Two options for iPhone in-app payments?

There’s no jury on the Epic Games v. Apple trial. It’s up to the game developer to convince Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers that the App Store takes too high a percentage of revenue generated by third-party applications, and is thereby hurting competition.

David Evans, chairman of Global Economics Group, testified Tuesday on Apple’s rule that applications can’t point users to their own websites for making in-app purchases, a process called “steering.” That prevents companies from offering customers items for less than they cost when purchased through the App Store, according to Evans.

With no jury, Rogers is an active participant in the discussions. At this point, she asked Evans that, if Apple were forced to allow developers to steer customers toward their websites for purchases, would any question of the App Store being anti-competitive go away?

Even responded by saying, “That wouldn’t eliminate the market power Apple has here, but it would certainly diminish it,“ according to Robertson. The witness for Epic Games also argued that it wouldn’t be a solution for every developer.

Rogers also pointed out in this exchange that video-streaming applications in the App Store already allow customers to pay for subscriptions on their own websites. But they can’t advertise this fact in their apps.

Only a possible App Store change

To be clear, while the judge raised the possibility that the Epic Games v. Apple court fight could be solved by giving customers the option to make in-app purchases directly from developers, that’s hardly conclusive evidence that she’s going to rule that way.

For one thing, Epic Games must get over a major hurdle first — it has to convince the judge that Apple’s App Store is effectively a monopoly that’s stifling competition. If it can’t accomplish that, then she’ll rule in Apple’s favor and order no App Store changes.

But if Rogers does allow steering, Epic Games would likely be satisfied. Adding a direct sales option to Fortnite is what got the company banned from the App Store in the first place.