Epic Sues Apple and Google in Australia

Posted on March 10, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Google, Mobile, iOS, Android with 32 Comments

Epic Games has launched lawsuits against Apple and Google for their abusive mobile app store business practices in Australia. The suits represent yet another escalation of Epic’s push to get the tech giants to change their ways.

“Epic gave Fortnite players on iOS and Google Play a choice between Apple/Google payment and Epic direct payment, passing on savings to direct purchasers,” the Epic explains. “Apple and Google retaliated by blocking Fortnite updates. If Apple had not been restrained by court action, it also threatened to prevent Epic from creating software for all Apple devices — not just on Fortnite but all of our games, and Unreal Engine too.”

Nothing in the new suits is particularly new: Epic has sued both firms in various locales, so the only thing unique here is the “in Australia” bit. As with its other suits, Epic is trying to force Apple and Google, the two gatekeepers on mobile, to allow developers to use third-party payment systems and to offer their apps and services outside of the mobile stores they control.

“Apple’s policies are so restrictive that they block gaming services like Microsoft xCloud, NVIDIA GeForce NOW, and Google Stadia from existing on iOS,” Epic notes. “Apple’s policies would have even blocked the World Wide Web if it had been invented after the iPhone, because Apple policies disallow running code not reviewed by Apple, accepting payments directly from customers, and accessing content not reviewed by Apple — all fundamental features of the web. These policies, together with Apple’s chilling enforcement strategy, directly impede innovation and invention of entirely new kinds of apps, games, and businesses.”

They sure do. Go, Epic!

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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Epic Sues Apple and Google in Australia”

  1. beckoningeagle

    While I am rooting for Epic and I hope they have the money to see all these cases in different countries at the same time come to fruition, I wonder if they shot themselves in the foot by violating the terms of use first in order to have a course of action.

    Maybe it is faster this way than waiting for a DOJ investigation (or equivalent in other countries) , but we will have to wait and see.

    • Paul Thurrott

      That was a calculated move to show antitrust regulators what happens when you don't follow the gatekeeper's anticompetitive rules and try to do the right thing for users.
  2. pherbie

    and so why Australia? Why here? We are such a small market for anyone including Epic. Do we have some advanced law that bans this sort of anti-competitive behavior where other jurisdictions do not?

    There's been recent fights between government with Google and Facebook that have seen those companies back down a bit.

    Is Epic targeting it's fight here because it thinks it has a good chance of winning and then taking the fight to the world, and if they lose here it is just a small market to lose? or are our lawyers are cheaper??

    We will see.

  3. pherbie

    is that supposed to be a stylized kangaroo in the graphic? Really????

    I do hope you got that from somewhere Paul.

  4. IanYates82

    In reply to lvthunder:

    The trouble with this market, compared to something like groceries, is that your ultimate customers can't just do the equivalent of "shop down the road"

    They've bought a single phone. They don't buy one for each store.

    So the store does act as a gatekeeper for that population.

    Also note that if you, as a consumer, bought some app through Apple and then want to switch to Android, there's no mechanism to reuse your app licence elsewhere. Technically it could be done, but it's discouraged due to these high mark-up approaches and forced payment processors.

    • behindmyscreen

      In reply to IanYates82:

      Nothing stops the app makers from honoring your account on different platforms. That's all on the developers.

      • christophercollins

        In reply to behindmyscreen:

        As a person who has successfully done this for my paid apps twice (I was a chronic phone nerd until the tech leveled off), I give you two first hand opinions.

        1. It was a pain in the ass to get anyone in the company to contact me. Then, I had to wait for them to get back to me with a 'gift code' to use for each app.
        2. One app wouldn't do it and that irritated me.

        Now, I only had to do the legwork on the first switch, as once I had it on Android & iOS, it no longer mattered.

        It's a long day and should be much easier. I like the way MS apps work, I have an authorization in their cloud and just download the app for free.

  5. illuminated

    I hope Apple and Google can figure out some way to have better policies. On windows or Mac I can install anything I want and pay any way I want. On Android or iOS any app can disappear tomorrow because of some obscure rule. It is not for Apple or Google to decide how I should pay the app developer.

    • b6gd

      In reply to illuminated:

      Apple, and Google had those rules before there was one app in the store. Just like all of the console makers. Their platform their rules. If you do not like rules you do not get to change them. You can choose to go to another platform.

      Let the free market decide if those rules are OK not the government. If Apple does something people really do not like they will stop buying their products.

      I personally like the walled garden for security and privacy reasons. I like it on my iOS devices and I like it on my Xbox. I quit PC gaming after decades this year when I got my XSX. The cheating was out of control for any AAA multiplayer game. Why....because as you said you can install ANYTHING you want on your PC, including cheating software that ruins games on the PC. You cant do that on the Xbox.

  6. ruusterc

    I agree with the fact apple shouldnt be charging 30 percent but as far as the other parts of epic law suit its just a rich company whining because they can’t make more apple should remind epic who made there game successful it was those suposed chilling policies that epic agreed too so tim sweeny needs to stop his whining an start reading agreements before agreeing to them

  7. shawnthebeachy

    For those asking, the image is the Fortnite llama. I don't know how I know this, and I hate the fact that I know it.

  8. ommoran

    In reply to lvthunder:

    It isn't a charity. But they make their money from selling (generally) very expensive hardware, or licencing an operating system. Then, they have a walled-off market from which you can buy your apps, and for which they take a huge commission.

    To your point on API calls, let's change the tune. Company X sues Microsoft because Microsoft will only allow software that they have vetted to be run on Windows 7 and above, and further, that software MUST be sold directly to the consumer through Microsoft's store. Because they have to be compensated for all the API programming that has to go on for the apps to run on their system.

    The argument doesn't hold up. You develop APIs to attract developers, which lead consumers to your product - in this case, the phones and operating systems that run on them. You don't develop the APIs so that you can charge developers for each time the API is called.

    You also misunderstood Epic's point about the internet. The language of the app store contract, according to Epic, is so restrictive that were iOS to predate the "internet" (by which I believe they mean the modern web, circa 1994-200ish), internet access as well would need to be vetted, restricted, approved and paid for by and to Apple. There would be no free access to any site you like.

  9. red.radar

    I would like to point out that Apple did block the web.... Unless you use safari's engine.

  10. ebraiter

    Oh wow. Apple getting sued again.

    Besides this one, a woman is suing Apple for infringement when she released an app to have emojis based on skin tone. Apple "stole" her idea and incorporated into iOS. I'm sure Apple will claim that their emojis look nothing like hers and more lifelike.

    • scovious

      In reply to ebraiter:

      I guess the big difference here is that this lawsuit has merit.

    • b6gd

      In reply to ebraiter:

      Because she owned the patten for skin toned emojis???? Apple has mountains of money. They are simply a target. Lawsuits will keep coming at them, just to see what sticks.

      The legal system in the US needed a massive overhaul 20 years ago. Tort reform, like term limits, just make sense but those with the power fight them off.

  11. richardbottiglieri

    What if Apple and Google permitted the redirection to a third party payment site for apps, but popped up a warning that said something to the effect of, "You are being redirected to a third party payment system. Apple makes no warranties or guarantees about the security/privacy of this service and you use them at your own risk." Something like that. Would that solve the problem?

    Ultimately, I prefer to use the Apple or Google payment method for apps because I can trust those entities to keep my payment information secure and ensure that payment is properly applied to the target service. But if customers want to save 20%, then some may be willing to take the "risk" and use an external payment system.

    I'm assuming that most people reading and posting in this forum are technical users. Most smartphone users are not technical. While Apple and Google are public companies whose ultimate goal is to be profitable, they also want their respective App Stores to be a safe and secure place for their customers to spend money. Both of those things can be true. It's not hard to imagine scenarios where users are getting duped or redirected to bogus sites, where their credit card or banking details are stolen and they get nothing in return. Using the Apple or Google payment platforms all but eliminate that, so there is some good that comes out of this arrangement, too.

    Finally, and I know that this isn't the point, but has any of this really harmed Epic? Epic has made billions in revenue off of Fortnite. While they are publicly playing the role of the "good guy fighting for the little guy" here, ultimately, they really just want to take in more cash, too.

  12. b6gd

    I do hope that Epic's legal efforts end in a "Epic" failure. Fortnite will die off eventually.

    • illuminated

      In reply to b6gd:

      I do not care what happens to Fortnite but Epic is right. Apple would ban internet on iOS if they could. Then they could sue everybody to keep iNternet name to themselves.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Your corporate overlords appreciate your defense of their anticompetitive business practices.
      • pecosbob04

        In reply to paul-thurrott:
        In reference to a reply on the premium side.

        "That was a calculated move to show antitrust regulators what happens when you don't follow the gatekeeper's anticompetitive rules and try to do the right thing for users."

        Paul you are citing facts not in evidence. Perhaps of course Epic's litigation team has declared it in their filings which I have not yet read, but which would strike me as an odd entry in a pleading. Unless of course you have a source on the inside of the litigation planning or perhaps are the insider. Oh the possibilities. Also too, your statement that Epic is not following the rules regardless of the alleged reasons for not doing so may turn out to be counter productive.

        "To do the right thing for users", No Epic's concern is not the "users" the concern is bottom line profitability as it should be.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to b6gd:

      Find incredible the animosity Apple accolades have against competing companies.

      As customer or suppliers there is absolutely no reason for these kind of remarks regarding Epic.

      I would understand if as a customer or supplier one had a bad experience with Epic. Unfortunately these kinds of claims are based on nothing but emotion.

      • Greg Green

        In reply to nbplopes:

        Epic really isn’t a competing company, they’re a litigating company, at least as of late. They’ve become ambulance chasers.

        amazon, I think it was, worked out a deal with apple and it’s store, but epic chose contract violation and litigation. Epic has earned its wrath.

  13. jimchamplin

    Call me when they sue them on the moon.