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What to expect from the Epic/Apple trial

The Epic-Apple trial, one of the most contentious lawsuits in contemporary tech history, continues to rumble through the courts, with allegations of mistrust and anticompetitive behavior in the lucrative app market.

The Epic-Apple trial, one of the most contentious lawsuits in contemporary tech history, continues to rumble through the courts, with allegations of mistrust and anticompetitive behavior in the lucrative app market. Last week, Epic presented its case to Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will decide whether Epic can install an app store on iPhones instead of paying the mandatory 30 percent App Store fee charged to developers. Apple will give evidence over the next few weeks, with CEO Tim Cook eventually taking the stand — the first time he’s given testimony at a trial. 

What’s the Epic-Apple Law Suit About?

Game developer Epic Games, makers of the popular Fortnite franchise, is suing Apple in the federal court in Northern California. Epic claims Apple violated U.S. antitrust laws by restricting apps like Fortnite from using other payment methods than those on the App Store. 

Apple says it charges developers 30 percent for sales made on the App Store. Epic wants Apple to take less of a cut or allow other payment systems to facilitate these sales. 

The Epic-Apple lawsuit has generated much buzz in the media, especially when Apple blocked Fortnite from the App Store in August 2020. Epic implemented changes to app payments without the tech giant’s permission, which prompted the block.

What’s Happened So Far?

The trial began on May 3, with Epic insisting Apple holds a monopoly on app payments on the App Store. Epic chief executive and founder Tim Sweeney told the court that Apple’s 30 percent commission harmed his company’s ability to invest in its business, creating an “economic drag.” He defended the decision to implement an alternative payment system for Fortnite last August, claiming any cost savings helped game users. 

“I wanted to demonstrate to the world that Epic was using direct payment to pass on savings to consumers and to show the world through conspiracy actions exactly what the ramifications of Apple’s policies were,” he said

What Else Has Happened?

Apple says it takes a 30 percent cut from app sales to cover expenses associated with security, user privacy, and app submissions and applies these charges to all developers. However, Epic says Apple employs its 30 percent fee “unevenly” to developers, and there are problems with the App Store as a whole. Lawyer Lauren Moskowitz told the court about instances where Apple allowed fraudulent or dangerous apps to enter the App Store. Later, emails presented in the case revealed that a security company found 17 apps that carried malicious ads. 

How Will The Epic-Apple Trial End?

The entire case hinges on whether Apple should allow third-party payment processors to facilitate app sales on the App Store, something the company is reluctant to do. The company continues to defend its practices for both app users and developers. 

“The App Store is not simply a marketplace — it is part of a larger bundle of tools, technologies, and services that Apple makes available to developers,” said Apple associate general counsel Douglas Vetter last July. “We cannot be confident that Epic or any developer would uphold the same rigorous standards of privacy, security, and content as Apple.”

Epic disagrees:

“Apple’s contracts and standards documents contain restrictive provisions that prohibit Epic from offering a competing app store and competing payment processing options to the consumer,” Tim Sweeney said back in August. 

The trial continues. 

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