Meta, Microsoft, X, Match pledge selves to Epic battle against Apple App Store

You have my sword ... and my bow ... and my axe!

Meta, Microsoft, X, and Match Group are piling on Apple in support of Epic Games' ongoing legal battle over the Cupertino giant's stranglehold on its App Store.

The consortium of tech behemoths has formally requested [PDF] permission to file an amicus brief in support of Epic Games' motion to enforce an injunction that could potentially reshape the digital marketplace.

At the heart of this legal clash is Apple's stringent control of its App Store, where it imposes a commission of up to 30 percent on in-app purchases and enforces policies that the companies argue stifle competition and innovation.

Epic Games' original lawsuit against Apple, initiated in 2020, challenged these practices, particularly targeting Apple's restrictions against "steering" users towards alternative, often cheaper, payment methods outside of the App Store.

In a significant ruling in September 2021, the court found Apple's anti-steering provisions to be anti-competitive, resulting in a permanent injunction that prohibited Apple from blocking developers from directing users to alternative payment methods outside of Apple's walled digital garden.

This ruling was seen as a victory for developers seeking more autonomy and the ability to bypass Apple's hefty fees. However, the new filings claim that Apple's compliance measures have fallen short of the court's expectations.

The amicus brief, as outlined in the court documents [PDF], argues that Apple has devised a new scheme that effectively circumvents the court's injunction by imposing burdensome requirements and limitations on developers who wish to include external purchase links within their apps.

These restrictions are claimed to be so onerous that they virtually nullify the intended effects of the injunction, with the filing alleging they effectively perpetuate Apple's dominant position and continue to limit price competition and consumer choice.

Meta, Microsoft, X, and Match Group, each affected by Apple's App Store policies due to their popular apps and services, argue that Apple's actions not only flout the injunction but also harm consumers and app developers by maintaining an environment where Apple's in-app purchasing system remains the de facto method for transactions, devoid of meaningful competition.

"Apple's new restrictions are plainly designed to render alternatives to Apple's IAP impractical for developers, and inaccessible and unappealing to consumers, thus circumventing both the spirit and underlying goals of the injunction," the companies write in the filing.

As the legal proceedings move forward with a hearing scheduled for April 30, the tech industry will be watching closely. The case has the potential to set a precedent for how digital marketplaces operate, balancing the interests of platform owners like Apple or Google against those of app developers and consumers seeking more openness and competition.

The case will be presided over by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Apple has until April 3 to formally respond. ®

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