Federal Court Delays App Store Rule Changes In Epic Games’ Apple Lawsuit

App Store commission
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App Store commission
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Photo Credit: James Yarema

Earlier this year, Apple was ordered to make several App Store changes as part of its legal battle with Epic Games. Now, a federal court has granted the Cupertino-headquartered company’s request to delay the implementation of said changes, which Spotify higher-ups claimed didn’t go far enough.

This latest order in the courtroom confrontation – and the broader debate over Apple’s App Store rules – arrives about six months after the iPhone designer initially altered the requirements for App Store developers. In brief, Apple retooled its rules in June to enable iOS developers to communicate with users outside of apps – so long as they didn’t discuss alternative payment methods, which aren’t subject to App Store fees.

Then, a proposed $100 million class-action settlement between Apple and iOS developers specified that the latter professionals would in fact be able to contact customers about alternative payments via email, but not through apps themselves. And just days thereafter, to close an investigation from the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), Apple agreed to let “reader” app creators – including Spotify – link to their own websites.

However, as mentioned at the outset, a federal court has approved Apple’s request to delay the rollout of different App Store rule changes yet, which resulted from the company’s lawsuit with Epic Games.

These changes concern linking directly to third-party payment options through apps themselves – not discussing third-party payment methods outside of apps, with the latter rule pivot still going into effect, according to 9to5Mac. The deadline for the external-payment portion of the ruling was today, December 9th, and the presiding judge had previously denied Apple’s calls for a stay.

But an appellate court has agreed with Apple, which is likewise facing antitrust investigations from a German regulatory agency and the European Union. Per the corresponding court order, the Fortnite developer Epic Games “failed to show Apple’s conduct violated any antitrust laws but did show that the same conduct violated California’s Unfair Competition Law.”

Additionally, “Apple has also made a sufficient showing of irreparable harm,” the legal text indicates, proceeding to specify that “the stay will remain in effect until the mandate issues in this appeal.”

At the time of writing, Spotify execs didn’t appear to have addressed the ruling on social media. Daniel Ek – whose company has taken aim at App Store policies via the Time to Play Fair campaign – characterized the above-described changes as “a step in the right direction” while doubling down on his calls “for a real solution.”

Regarding the details of this “real solution,” Ek was replying to a message from Spotify chief legal officer Horacio Gutierrez, including a graphic that compared “Apple settlements” with the “Open App Markets Act.” Worth noting in conclusion is that Apple has long pushed back against Spotify’s criticism.