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Epic accuses Apple of flouting court order by charging for external links on iOS apps

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Epic Games has already accused Apple of “malicious compliance” with the EU’s new competition laws, and now it’s making the same allegation stateside. In a new legal filing, it accused Apple of non-compliance with a 2021 ruling that allowed developers to bypass Apple’s 30 percent cut of in-app payments and is asking the court to enforce the original injunction.

Once the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the ruling, Apple released revised guidelines, forcing developers to apply for an “entitlement,” while still offering the option to purchase through Apple’s own billing system. Moreover, Apple still charged a 27 percent commission on any sales made through links to external payment systems (or 12 percent for participants in the iOS Small Business Program).

Epic argued that those fees are “essentially the same” as what it charges using its own in-app payment (IAP) system. ‌To that end, it accused the company of failing to comply with the order, with the fees making the links “commercially unusable.”

It also said that Apple requires a “plain button style” for external links that’s “not a button at all” and violates the injunction forcing Apple to remove restrictions on “steering” users to alternative payment “buttons, external links or other calls to action.” It added that Apple violated the injunction in a third way by prohibiting multi-platform apps like Minecraft from showing external payment links. Epic included statements from other developers including Paddle and Down Dog.

“Apple’s goal is clear: to prevent purchasing alternatives from constraining the supracompetitive fees it collects on purchases of digital goods and services,” the document reads. “Apple’s so-called compliance is a sham. Epic therefore seeks an order (i) finding Apple in civil contempt, (ii) requiring Apple to promptly bring its policies into compliance with the Injunction and (iii) requiring Apple to remove all anti-steering provisions in Guideline 3.1.3.”

Apple previously said that it has complied with the injunction with new rules that allow alternative payment buttons or links in apps, and by letting developers “communicate with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.”

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