Court Stays Order Requiring Apple To Allow In-App Links To Outside Payment Options

Siding with Apple, a federal appellate court has stayed a trial judge's order that would have required the company to allow developers to use in-app buttons or links to point consumers to outside payment options.

In an order issued Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Apple raised “serious questions” about the basis for the injunction, and also showed that the injunction could subject the company to “irreparable harm.”

The now-stayed order was issued earlier this year by U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, who presided over a lawsuit brought against Apple by Fortnite developer Epic Games.

Epic sued Apple in August of 2020, when Apple removed the Fortnite game from the iOS app store.

Apple did so after Epic began offering gamers the ability to make purchases directly from it, in violation of Apple's policies.

Apple requires game developers to use its payment platform for in-app purchases, and charges a 30% commission to developers that take in more than $1 million in revenue. Smaller developers pay only a 15% commission.

Epic contended that Apple's policies, including its anti-steering rules (which prohibited developers from offering in-app links to outside payment platforms), violated monopoly laws as well as a California state law regarding unfair competition.

Gonzalez threw out the monopoly claims, but ruled that Apple violated California's unfair competition law, and ordered the company to revise its policies by allowing developers to point users to outside payment platforms.

Apple appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit, and sought a stay of the injunction.

Among other arguments, Apple said the requirement to allow in-app links to outside payment platforms would hinder its ability to collect a commission, and would harm its privacy and security efforts.

Gonzalez's injunction also requires Apple to allow developers to notify app downloaders by email or telephone about outside payment options, but Apple had independently agreed to those terms to settle a separate antitrust lawsuit.

That portion of the injunction remains in effect.

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