Court Delays Order Requiring Apple To Allow In-App Payment Options

A federal appellate panel on Monday paused an injunction that would have required Apple to immediately allow developers to add in-app links to outside payment platforms.

The stay gives Apple time to ask the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear the company's appeal of the injunction. The stay will expire after 90 days, or until the Supreme Court says whether it will hear an appeal -- whichever occurs later.

The stay, issued by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, marks the latest development in a long-running battle between Fortnite developer Epic Games and Apple.

The dispute began in the summer of 2020, when Epic started allowing gamers to make purchases directly from it, in violation of then-existing Apple's policies.

At the time, Apple required developers to use its payment platform for in-app purchases, and charged a commission of up to 30% on those sales. (In 2021, Apple agreed to allow developers to notify app users by email or telephone -- but not in-app -- about outside payment options.)

Apple responded to Epic's move by take Fortnite down from the iOS app store, after which Epic alleged in an antitrust complaint that Apple monopolized the iOS app distribution market, and unlawfully required developers to use its payment processing system.

U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California (who presided over a trial between the companies) ruled in 2021 that Epic failed to prove its anti-trust claims, but that Apple's anti-steering policy -- which prohibited developers from offering in-app links to outside payment platforms -- violated California's unfair competition law.

She issued an injunction requiring Apple to allow developers to add in-app links to payment options outside Apple's platform.

Both Apple and Epic appealed to the 9th Circuit, which initially stayed Rogers' injunction. But in April, that court upheld Rogers' entire order -- including the injunction.

Last month, Apple asked the appeals court to stay the injunction. The company said at the time it planned to ask the Supreme Court to review the injunction on the grounds that it's too broad because it affects all developers nationwide, not just Epic.

Epic opposed that request, arguing that there is “no realistic chance” the Supreme Court will hear Apple's appeal.

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