UK antitrust court blocks Epic's case against Apple

However, the Competition Appeal Tribunal has ruled that the game developer's case against Google can move forward

The UK Competition Appeal Tribunal has dismissed Epic Games’ lawsuit against Apple over the firm’s “anticompetitive” App Store payments system.

The two companies have been at loggerheads since August, when Epic attempted to dodge Apple’s 30% fee on App Store purchases by launching its own in-app payment system. This led to Apple’s subsequent ban of Fortnite from its store, with Google following suit shortly after.

As a result, Epic Games filed complaints against both Apple and Google with the UK tribunal back in December.

In a decision reached reached this week, the antitrust court found that Apple's UK arm was not responsible for deciding which apps may or may not be supplied through the App Store, so a case against the company could not continue. 

"In my view, that is a significant factor in favour of the US as the appropriate forum," Justice Peter Roth said in his decision. "It is clear from even a cursory reading of the judgment of 9 October 2020, and hardly surprising, that many of the same issues of substance which arise under UK competition law arise under US antitrust law."

However, the tribunal did give Epic permission to pursue a similar antitrust case against Google in the UK. Justice Roth said this could continue various legal reasons, including Google's corporate structure, the role of its Irish subsidiaries, and how certain divisions of Google were involved in implementing Fortnite's removal from Google Play compared to how Apple handed this on the App Store.

While Apple also has a presence in Ireland, this division is not involved in Epic's case.

In response, Epic said while it is pleased it can continue  its case against Google in the UK, it will "reconsider pursuing its case against Apple in the UK after the resolution of the US case."

"We note the Competition Appeal Tribunal’s assessment that Apple and Google’s anticompetitive app store policies are ‘serious issues to be tried’ under UK Competition law, and that it is ‘well arguable’ that their conduct has ‘an immediate and substantial effect in the UK’," Epic Games continued.

"We are unwavering in our commitment to stopping Apple and Google’s anti-competitive practices and will continue to fight for fairer app distribution globally.”

News of Epic's blow in the UK comes just days after the company filed a complaint against Apple in Europe, in which it accuses the tech giant of “abusive conduct” that breaches competition laws.

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