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UK Judge Rejects Apple’s Bid to Dismiss Antitrust Lawsuit As company denies violating US court order in Epic Games lawsuit

UK Judge Rejects Apple’s Bid to Dismiss Antitrust Lawsuit As company denies violating US court order in Epic Games lawsuit

Apple, the tech giant renowned for its innovation and ubiquitous presence in the digital sphere, finds itself embroiled in a series of legal battles that threaten to reshape the landscape of app distribution and competition.

On Friday, the company faced a significant setback as a judge rejected its bid to dismiss a lawsuit valued at nearly $1 billion. The lawsuit, spearheaded by competition law professor and economist Sean Ennis, alleges that Apple charged unfair commission fees to UK-based developers on purchases made through the App Store.

In response to the ruling by Judge Andrew Lenon, Daniel Piccinin, Apple’s legal representative, argued that developers could not claim damages in the UK unless directly charged via the UK App Store. However, Lenon’s rejection of this argument signaled a pivotal moment in the legal proceedings, paving the way for further scrutiny of Apple’s business practices.

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At the heart of the lawsuit lies the accusation that Apple abused its dominant position in the market for app distribution, imposing commission fees of up to 30% on developers. Ennis and his legal team contend that such fees are unjust, particularly considering Apple’s control over the App Store ecosystem. The ruling amplifies mounting pressure on Apple, as regulators in both the US and Europe scrutinize its fee structure and App Store policies.

While Apple maintains that the majority of developers on its platform do not pay any commission, criticism has mounted over its tight controls and alleged anti-competitive practices. In the European Union, regulatory changes have forced Apple to permit users to download apps from alternative sources, a move aimed at fostering competition and consumer choice.

Meanwhile on Friday in the US, Apple vehemently denied any violation of a court order governing its App Store and urged a California federal judge to reject a request by Epic Games, the developer behind “Fortnite,” to hold it in contempt.

This latest development unfolded in the ongoing legal saga between the two tech giants, with Apple submitting its arguments in a filing to U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland.

Judge Gonzalez Rogers had previously presided over Epic’s lawsuit in 2020, which accused Apple of violating antitrust law through its strict controls over app distribution and in-app purchases.

In response to Epic’s accusations, Apple criticized what it deemed as an attempt by Epic to make its “tools and technologies available to developers for free.” Apple argued that Epic’s demands amounted to an unreasonable attempt to micromanage its business operations for the sake of increasing Epic’s profitability.

Epic, however, declined to comment on Apple’s filing, signaling the continuation of the protracted legal battle between the two companies. Notably, while Epic largely lost its case against Apple, Judge Gonzalez Rogers ordered Apple in 2021 to provide developers with greater freedom to direct app users to alternative payment methods for digital goods.

Despite this court order, Epic alleged in a recent court filing that Apple was in “blatant violation” of the injunction. The video game maker pointed to Apple’s imposition of a 27% fee on developers for certain purchases, which it claimed rendered links for alternative payment options “commercially unusable.”

Additionally, Epic accused Apple of barring some apps from informing users about alternative payment methods, further exacerbating the company’s concerns.

Epic’s allegations against Apple garnered support from other tech companies, including Meta Platforms, Microsoft, Elon Musk’s X, and Match Group, who echoed Epic’s arguments in a court filing to Judge Gonzalez Rogers. These companies contended that Apple’s actions constituted a “clear violation” of the court’s order, further amplifying the scrutiny of Apple’s App Store policies.

The legal showdown between Epic and Apple mirrors a similar case brought by Epic against Alphabet’s Google. In San Francisco, a judge is expected to issue a separate injunction affecting the Google Play Store, highlighting broader concerns about app distribution and competition in the digital marketplace.

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