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Apple manages to pause injunction on alternative payment links in iOS apps

By | Published on Thursday 9 December 2021

Epic Games logo

Apple won’t have to allow all app makers to include links to alternative payment options within iOS apps from later today after the Ninth Circuit appeals court in the US granted the tech giant a last minute reprieve, pausing an injunction instigated by a lower court.

That injunction came as part of Apple’s legal battle with Fortnite maker Epic Games. Like many app makers, including Spotify, Epic argues that Apple’s App Store rules are anti-competitive.

A particular gripe is that all in-app purchases on iOS apps must be taken using Apple’s commission charging transactions platform, and alternative payment options elsewhere on the internet cannot be linked to from within the app.

When Epic took the matter to the Californian courts, actually most of its competition law arguments against Apple failed. However the judge there did issue the injunction ordering Apple to allow app makers to sign-post alternative payment options.

The tech giant has already agreed to allow alternative payment links in so called reader apps – which includes Spotify – as part of a settlement with a regulator in Japan. However, it really doesn’t want to allow such links across the board and so has been busy trying to get the injunction stayed.

To that end, Apple argued that because both it and Epic are appealing the wider judgement in the Californian case, the injunction should be paused until that appeal is done. Even though that will likely take years. The judge who issued the injunction rejected that argument, so Apple’s lawyers took the matter to the Ninth Circuit.

Epic and an assortment of other app makers told the appeals court that the injunction should still apply from 9 Dec as planned, because it was a “vital cure for an extremely harmful and anticompetitive practice”. However, with twelve hours to go before said injunction was due to go into force, the Ninth Circuit judges said: “Apple has demonstrated, at minimum, that its appeal raises serious questions on the merits of the district court’s determination”.

That doesn’t actually cancel the injunction, of course, but it does delay everything somewhat. Epic hasn’t as yet commented on the ruling. The gaming firm has also launched litigation in relation to Apple’s App Store rules in other jurisdictions, while regulators are also investigating the rules in multiple countries, including an EU investigation prompted by a complaint from Spotify.