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Epic Games says Apple violated App Store injunction, seeks contempt order

FILE PHOTO: Fortnite graphic and Apple logo displayed in illustration

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) -Epic Games, which makes the popular video game "Fortnite," on Wednesday accused Apple of violating an injunction governing its lucrative App Store, and asked a U.S. judge to hold Apple in contempt and end its "sham" compliance.

The companies have been battling in court since 2020, when Epic accused Apple of violating antitrust law by requiring consumers to obtain apps through its App Store, where it charges app developers up to 30% commissions on in-app purchases.

A September 2021 injunction by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California, let developers provide links and buttons that direct consumers to other means to pay for digital content.

In a filing with the California court, Epic alleged that Apple is in "blatant violation" of that injunction, despite the Cupertino, California-based company's assurance in a Jan. 16 court notice that it had "fully complied."

Epic said Apple has imposed new rules and a new 27% fee on developers for some purchases, which taken together make the links "commercially unusable."

The Cary, North Carolina-based developer also said Apple continues to "categorically prohibit" buttons, and still forbids some apps from telling users they have other purchasing options.

"Apple's goal is clear: to prevent purchasing alternatives from constraining the supracompetitive fees it collects on purchases of digital goods and services," Epic said. "Apple's so-called compliance is a sham."

In response to requests for comment, Apple referred to its Jan. 16 notice, where it said the injunction would protect consumers and "the integrity of Apple's ecosystem," while ensuring that developers do not get a free ride on its platform.

Apple has until April 3 to formally respond to Epic's filing.

Last week, Apple briefly escalated the feud by blocking Epic from launching its own online marketplace on iPhones and iPads in Europe, before backing down two days later.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear Epic's appeal of lower court findings that Apple's policies did not violate federal antitrust law. The court also decided against hearing Apple's own appeal from the injunction.

The case is Epic Games Inc v Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 20-05640.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis)