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Epic says Apple violates court order with "commercially unusable" payment links

Epic Games is calling for Apple to be held in contempt of court for violating the judge’s order that followed the 2021 legal dispute between the two.

Bloomberg reported that the Fortnite firm filed a request to a federal judge on Wednesday, arguing that Apple has failed to comply with the original order about allowing developers to direct users to alternative payment systems. Apple was ordered to enable links to transactions that do not involve iOS’ processing process, which entitles Apple to a 30% commission.

While Apple has enabled all third-party apps sold in the US to include external payment links, as ordered, it has said it will claim a 27% commission on any proceeds generated through these methods.

The company also said developers must apply for an ‘entitlement’ before they can include such links, and that these links may not be displayed more than once in the app or on the App Store page.

In its filing, Epic said these addition fees and stipulations have made the links “commercially unusable” and is calling for the court to order Apple to fully comply.

“Apple’s new scheme so pervasively taxes, regulates, restricts and burdens in-app links directing users to alternative purchasing mechanisms on a developer’s website,” the company’s legal counsel wrote in the filing, adding that the all of this makes the links “entirely useless.”

The filing continued: “Apple’s goal is clear: to prevent purchasing alternatives from constraining its supracompetitive fees it collects on purchases of digital goods and services.”

Apple told Bloomberg it had fully complied with the order, arguing that its regulations and limitations are necessary to “protect user privacy and security, maintain the integrity of Apple’s ecosystem, promote the flow of information, avoid user confusion, and enable efficient review of developers’ apps by App Review.”

The option to include direct payment links only applies in the US. Outside of the market, developers are banned from using buttons, external links or other calls to action that direct users to purchase methods other than those within the app.

Enabling alternative payments was Epic’s sole victory in its 2021 antitrust trial against Apple, where a judge found in favour of the iOS firm on nine out of ten counts.

This legal dispute began in 2020 when Epic introduced direct payment links to Fortnite, prompting Apple to remove the battle royale game from the App Store, and was seemingly resolved when the Supreme Court rejected both companies’ appeals against the court order back in January.

Epic and Apple have continued to clash, with the latter banning the former’s developer account in the EU to prevent it from launch a new app store on iOS, as enabled by the European Union’s Digital Markets Act.

Apple argued that Epic was “verifiably untrustworthy”, but the ban was reversed two days later after the European Commission requested “further explanations” as to Apple’s justification for it.

Earlier this week, Apple made further changes to comply with the DMA, now enabling developers to distribute apps directly via their own websites in addition to the App Store.

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