Apple’s App Store has left users and developers “trapped” in an anticompetitive marketplace, Epic Games attorneys said at the start of an antitrust trial in the US over how much the iPhone maker’s store charges developers.
“Another name for the walled garden is the iOS ecosystem,” Epic attorney Katherine Forrest said in an opening statement on Monday to a federal judge in Oakland, California who is hearing the case without a jury. Epic “has dedicated enormous resources to take on the biggest company in the world”, in a fight not just for itself but all developers, Forrest said.
Apple, which will present its opening statement next, is facing a backlash from global regulators and some app developers who say its standard App Store fee of 30% and others policies are unfair and designed to benefit the iPhone maker’s own services. The fight blew up in August when Epic told customers it would begin offering a discounted direct purchase plan for items in the blockbuster Fortnite game, and Apple then removed the game app, cutting off access for more than a billion iPhone and iPad customers.
Users are locked in by costs and developers by “onerous” contractual obligations with Apple, which closely monitors and polices how its App Store functions, said Forrest, a former federal judge in Manhattan. Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs told a high-level engineering executive as far back as 2008 that the App Store licensing agreement is designed to “avoid competitors”, Forrest said.
As hundreds of people from the public and the media dialled in to an audio feed for the trial, which is expected to run for three weeks, US district judge Yvonne Rogers Gonzalez called the case “high stakes” and said it raises “difficult issues”. — Reported by Malathi Nayak, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP