US appeals court halts antitrust orders against Apple App Store

Dec 9, 2021: According to a report by Bloomberg, Apple Inc. won a delay to court-mandated changes to its App Store as it appeals the ruling.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted Apple’s request to halt a Dec. 9 deadline to comply with a judge’s directive that the company allow app developers to steer customers to payment methods outside the store.

The ruling is a significant victory for the iPhone maker as it fights a broad challenge by Epic Games Inc. to its domination of the $142 billion mobile-app distribution market.

The world’s most valuable technology company has argued in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that changes made by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers”will hurt consumers, developers and Apple itself.”

Now, the overhaul it ordered in September will be suspended until Apple’s appeal is resolved, which could take at least a year. Apple briefly reached the intra-day highs on the news. At 2:40 p.m., the stock rose 2.1 percent to 17 174.79. In New York. Epic declined to comment, and Apple did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Earlier, during the Ninth Circuit ruling, Judge Gonzalez Rogers vindicated Apple over Epic’s claims that App Store policies violate federal antitrust law because they hurt developers and consumers while enriching the technology giant. But she maintained that Apple had violated California’s unfair competition laws with its so-called anti-steering policy that forbids developers from using web links or other means within apps to inform consumers about payment methods outside the App Store.

The technology giant told the Ninth Circuit that it had already satisfied half of the judge’s order by changing its guidelines to allow “out-of-app communications” between all developers and users. The part of the order targeted in Apple’s stay request involves in-app advertising and links.

Meanwhile, according to the appeals court, Apple has shown “at minimum, that its appeal raises serious questions” on the lower court’s ruling that it violated California’s unfair competition law.

The iPhone maker continues to face a range of antitrust lawsuits in and outside the U.S. seeking to open up the App Store to competition, monopolization enforcement investigations brought by federal and state agencies, and legislative bids to restrict its business practices.

Epic, which is the creator of the popular Fortnight game, is also appealing against parts of Gonzalez Rogers’ decision that were against them.

Chief executive Tim Sweeney said his appeal could take up to five years to resolve, including a visit to the US Supreme Court. Prior to Gonzalez Rogers’ decision, Apple announced two changes to the App Store, in a settlement with small US developers and the Japan Federal Trade Commission, similar to the court’s restraining order.

As per the changes to the app store structure, Apple is letting developers directly communicate with users about alternative payment methods, and next year it will begin allowing so-called “reader” apps — those that deal with media like video, photos and news — to point users to the web to subscribe, bypassing Apple’s fees.

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