For the second time in two years, a federal court has ruled that Apple's marketplace policies are legal under antitrust laws at both state and federal levels. The original 2021 ruling by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers determined that Apple was not running its iOS App Store like a monopoly like Epic claimed, even though it prevented users from being able to pay for apps or in-app purchases outside of the company's payments processor.
"There is a lively and important debate about the role played in our economy and democracy by online transaction platforms with market power," the appeals court wrote in the decision on Monday. "Our job as a federal court of appeals, however, is not to resolve that debate -- nor could we even attempt to do so. Instead, in this decision, we faithfully applied existing precedent to the facts."
The dispute began in 2020, when Apple banned Epic Game's "Fortnite" from the App Store because Epic created an alternative payments method that allowed customers to bypass Apple's 30% fee for processing in-app purchases.
"The App Store continues to promote competition, drive innovation, and expand opportunity, and we're proud of its profound contributions to both users and developers around the world," Apple said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg News. "We respectfully disagree with the court's ruling on the one remaining claim under state law and are considering further review.
Still, the appeals court did rule in favor of Epic, saying that Apple would no longer be able to prohibit developers from allowing users to have multiple ways to pay outside of the App Store. However, this is far from the outcome the mobile games developer was hoping for, as it was looking to require Apple to open its iOS devices to third-party app stores and set a precedent for further antitrust action against Big Tech.
"Apple prevailed at the 9th Circuit Court," Epic CEO Tim Sweeney wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. "Though the court upheld the ruling that Apple's restraints have 'a substantial anticompetitive effect that harms consumers,' they found we didn't prove our Sherman Act case. Fortunately, the court's positive decision rejecting Apple's anti-steering provisions frees iOS developers to send consumers to the web to do business with them directly there. We're working on next steps."