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US judge in ‘Fortnite’ case overturns Apple in-app payment restrictions




The 3D printed Lady Justice figure is seen in front of the Apple and Epic Games logos shown in this illustration photo taken on February 17, 2021. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration / File Photo

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Sept. 10 (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Friday issued a ruling in the antitrust lawsuit of the creator of “Fortnite” Epic Games against the App Store of Apple Inc (AAPL.O), overturning some of Apple’s restrictions on how developers can collect payments in apps.

The move is similar to a move Apple made to settle an antitrust ruling in Japan last week and says Apple can’t stop developers from providing buttons or links in their apps that direct customers to other means. to pay outside of Apple’s in-app purchase system. , which charges developers commissions of up to 30%. The ruling also states that Apple cannot prohibit developers from communicating with customers through contact information developers obtained when customers signed up in the app.

The decision comes after a three-week trial in May before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Apple shares fell about 3.4% on news of the decision, causing the company’s market value to drop $ 87 billion. Shares of Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), which operates an app store for Android smartphones, reversed an earlier gain and fell 0.8% for the last time.

Shares of video game makers that offer their games on the Apple App Store have increased. Zynga (ZNGA.O) jumped 8%, while Electronic Arts (EA.O) and Activision Blizzard (ATVI.O) each rose more than 2%.

The ruling rescinds a critical part of Apple’s App Store rules, which prohibit developers from telling users other places they can go to pay the developer directly rather than using Apple’s payment mechanisms . Gonzalez Rogers has issued a nationwide order that allows developers to put “buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms into their applications.”

But Gonzalez Rogers didn’t grant Epic some of his other wishes, like forcing Apple to open the iPhone to third-party app stores.

Apple said in a statement, “As the court recognized, success is not illegal. Apple faces stiff competition in every segment in which we operate, and we believe customers and developers alike choose us because our products and services are the best in the world. “

The orders are similar to a move Apple made last week to conclude a Japan Fair Trade Commission investigation in which Apple said it would allow “player” apps such as Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) to provide a link to customers to sign. for a paid account outside of the app, skipping Apple’s commission. Read more

Last week, analysts estimated that the JFTC’s settlement would cut only 1% to 2% of Apple’s profits, as “reader” apps only make up a small portion of Apple’s App Store revenue. the company. But the games are a much more important part.

“While reading apps collectively represent only 14% of App Store developer revenue (over the past 12 months), gaming apps are the App Store’s cash cow, accounting for 63% of developer income ”over the past year, Katy Huberty, analyst at Morgan Stanley. written in a note.

The judge ruled that Epic had not shown that Apple was an illegal monopoly, but showed that the smartphone giant had engaged in anti-competitive behavior under California laws.

The judge issued a nationwide injunction blocking the rules of Apple’s anti-leadership provisions that prevent app developers from directing users outside of the Apple ecosystem.

The judge said the rules hide critical information from consumers and illegally stifle consumer choice.

Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru, Stephen Nellis in San Francisco and Jan Wolfe in New York Editing by Patrick Graham, Peter Henderson and Matthew Lewis




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