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Supreme Court says Apple can keep its App Store payment rules for now

Supreme Court says Apple can keep its App Store payment rules for now


Apple was granted a reprieve on letting developers direct users to other payment methods.

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

The Supreme Court has rejected Fortnite publisher Epic’s request to make Apple loosen its App Store rules as a legal battle progresses. As first reported by Bloomberg and Reuters, Justice Elena Kagan declined to vacate a stay on a lower court order about Apple’s anti-steering rules, which limit how iOS app developers can direct users to alternate payment methods. Kagan did not issue an explanation for the decision, but Epic’s petition was noted as denied on the Supreme Court’s website.

The district court order was one of Epic’s limited wins in a high-profile antitrust case over iOS App Store in-app purchase fees. A judge determined that Apple had violated California’s Unfair Competition Law by preventing developers from using links to direct users to payment methods outside the App Store.

But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a stay on that part of the ruling in July, giving Apple 90 days to petition the Supreme Court and see if its appeal was taken up. Epic pushed the Supreme Court to overrule the Ninth Circuit, saying it would “injure not only Epic but innumerable consumers and other app developers for a significant period of time.”

Moving payments outside the App Store system lets developers avoid the “Apple tax,” a fee that is levied on digital purchases like Fortnite V-Bucks. However, Apple has reserved the right to charge a commission separately if developers widely adopt the practice — something it did last year when Dutch regulators required it to open up payment methods for dating apps.

Epic declined to comment on the decision. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.