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Epic Games brings Apple fight to the EU with new antitrust complaint

Epic Games brings Apple fight to the EU with new antitrust complaint

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Following action taken in the US, UK, and Australia

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Fortnite developer Epic Games has made a formal antitrust complaint about Apple to the European Commission, the company announced today. Epic alleges that Apple’s “carefully designed anti-competitive restrictions” have “completely eliminated competition in app distribution and payment processes.” It says this leads to consumers playing higher prices, and gives Apple too much control over developers on its platform.

The complaint is the latest legal action taken by Epic in its ongoing dispute with Apple. The developer has criticized Apple’s control over software distribution with the App Store, as well as its policies around payments, which often result in Apple taking a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has called this 30 percent cut a “tax,” and Epic claims Apple’s policies give its own services an unfair advantage over other iOS developers. In November, Apple said it would reduce its App Store commission rate to 15 percent for any developer that earns less than $1 million in annual revenue, in an apparent response to pressure from developers and regulators.

Epic wants “timely and effective remedies” from the EU

In its announcement, Epic Games said it’s not seeking damages from Apple in the EU. Instead, it says it wants “timely and effective remedies” to address what it claims are Apple’s anti-competitive practices. “We just want to see prohibition on these platform companies using their control over the hardware to exert control over secondary markets and force them to compete on equal terms with every competitor,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney told The Financial Times when asked what these remedies should include. 

Epic’s dispute with Apple erupted last summer when the developer attempted to circumvent Apple’s 30 percent cut on in-app purchases in Fortnite. Apple responded by removing the popular game from its App Store, only for Epic Games to file a lawsuit in response. Epic has subsequently launched legal proceedings in Australia, and earlier this year complained to the UK’s antitrust tribunal about Apple’s actions. Epic Games and Apple are due to meet in court in May, according to the FT. 

As well as challenging Apple, Epic also sued Google after it removed Fortnite from Android’s Google Play Store. 

Responding to Epic’s latest filing, Apple told Bloomberg that Epic had intentionally violated its App Store policies, and that these “apply equally to every developer and protect customers.” It said Epic’s actions “made pawns of customers, and we look forward to making this clear to the European Commission.”

Epic’s new complaint follows the EU’s announcement last year that it has opened a formal antitrust investigation against Apple over its App Store and Apple Pay practices. The EU is concerned that Apple’s policies stifle and distort competition in cases where Apple’s own services compete with other developers on its App Store. Messaging app Telegram has also complained to the EU about Apple’s policies, demanding that it allow users to download software outside of the App Store.

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