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Apple Wins Stay on Third-Party Payments as Case Heads to Supreme Court

A recent court ruling has given Apple a temporary reprieve from integrating third-party payment systems in its App Store. As the Epic Games lawsuit advances to the Supreme Court, the App Store revenue model hangs in the balance.

Apple's App Store: Third-Party Payments on Hold for Now

In a new twist in the lengthy antitrust lawsuit between Apple and Fortnite creator Epic Games, a court ruling has temporarily stalled the legal mandate requiring Apple to incorporate third-party payment options in its App Store. While the Cupertino-based tech company emerged largely victorious from its court disputes and was declared not a monopoly, it appealed against the lower court's decision requiring it to provide app developers the option to link to their own payment systems. Apple was granted a motion permitting the appeals court ruling to be put on hold for 90 days while it appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the motion hadn't been granted, Apple would have been compelled to allow apps to link to non-Apple payment systems within its App Store, letting app developers bypass Apple's 15%-30% commission on in-app purchases and subscriptions, and leading to a drop in App Store revenues.

Epic Games initiated the lawsuit against Apple in 2020, contesting the fees charged by Apple on in-app payments. Epic aimed to halt Apple's practices, allowing app developers to process payments via their systems and bypass Apple's commission fees. The case moved up to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where the court predominantly ruled against Epic's claims but upheld a lower court's judgment in Epic's favor under California's Unfair Competition Law.

This meant the previously determined "anti-steering" changes would once again be required. These changes prohibit app developers from guiding consumers to alternative payment options for subscriptions and in-app purchases outside Apple's ecosystem.

Despite granting Apple's motion to delay changes to its App Store's anti-steering rules, Ninth Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision, stating Apple's arguments ignore key facts and reasoning.

Once Apple's petition is filed with the Supreme Court, the stay will persist until the Supreme Court settles the petition.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney voiced his disappointment with the decision, tweeting, "Justice delayed, again." Meanwhile, other app developers like Netflix and Spotify have devised workarounds to bypass Apple's rules, pointing to an evolving landscape for App Store payments.