Fortnite battles Apple in Australian court

Luke Costin
·2-min read

The maker of online game Fortnite has brought its beef with Apple to Australian shores, accusing the $2.75-trillion tech giant of breaking consumer laws through its iPhone app monopoly.

Epic Games this week filed a claim in the Federal Court accusing Apple of breaching laws forbidding exclusive dealing, the misuse of market power and unconscionable conduct.

"It goes to the heart of whether consumers and creators can do business together directly on mobile platforms or are forced to use monopoly channels against wishes and interests," Epic chief executive and majority owner Tim Sweeny said in a statement on Wednesday.

Fortnite was banned from the App Store in August after the multi-billion-dollar developer allowed iPhone and iPad users to pay it directly for in-app content, bypassing Apple's system.

Apple takes a 30 per cent cut of all purchases it processes and bans iOS app developers from using alternate payment methods.

The tech company also prevents iOS users from sideloading apps - or downloading apps directly from websites.

"The conduct, in turn, results in harms including a reduction in choice for app distribution and higher prices for in-app content for iOS device users in Australia," Epic's claim states.

"But for Apple's conduct, the App Store would (or would likely) face vigorous and effective competition in the iOS App Distribution Market from other app stores to distribute iOS-compatible apps to iOS devices users including in Australia, leading to pro-competitive benefits including increased quality, innovation and choice, as occurs with Apple personal computers."

Epic says the ban from the iOS app store ban had caused a loss of goodwill and "permanent and irreparable" damage to its ongoing business, reputation and trust with customers.

Apple said its priorities always were to provide customers with a safe and trusted place to download software and to apply the rules equally to all developers.

It referenced a similar, ongoing case Epic filed in the US, in which the developer was called out for not being upfront with Apple when introducing the code circumventing the tech giant's in-app payment system.

"In ways a judge has described as deceptive and clandestine, Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines that apply equally to every developer and protect customers," a spokeswoman told AAP in a statement.

"Their reckless behaviour made pawns of customers, and we look forward to making this clear to Australian courts."

Apple is yet to file a defence and the case's first mention before the court is yet to be scheduled.

A US District Court judge in October refused to order Fortnite's immediate restoration to the App Store, but did ban Apple from taking any adverse action against Epic that would impact access to Epic's Unreal Engine, which is used by other developers.