Monday, September 13, 2021

The Epic Anti-Steering Injunction Is Narrow

Nick Heer:

The nearly two hundred page order is very readable and well-written, but the injunction ordering Apple to scrap the last sentence of the first bullet in App Store rule 3.1.1 leaves plenty of ambiguity over what developers can do and what Apple must allow. This will undoubtably be clarified with time, but it is the only part of the result that creates more questions than it answers. Apple is apparently interpreting it as requiring the company to, in effect, apply its settlement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission to all apps, not just Apple’s “reader” app category. That means the anti-steering App Store policies will be removed within three months. But it may not mean that Apple must permit alternative in-app purchase options.

John Gruber:

YGR is only striking down the anti-steering rules that inform and link users to out-of-app (which effectively means web) means of sign-up and payment.

Judging by their reactions, both Apple and Epic see it that way too.

John Gruber:

I think the injunction allows, and Apple will enforce, that such links must open outside the app.


The court specifically, carefully, and methodically examined whether Apple should be forced to allow IAP (in-app purchasing) systems other than the one built into iOS. The court found the arguments for such a ban lacking and declined to allow external IAP methods.

So the third-party IAP approach taken by Fortnite would still not be allowed.

Florian Mueller:

It’s one of those situations in which either side “gets something” and could claim victory, as Apple apparently does though the stock market initially disagreed (I, personally don’t think the decision should have moved the stock at all). This makes it all the more remarkable that Epic doesn’t engage in spin but concedes defeat. It’s not that Epic achieved nothing; but for the time being, all it got is a consolation prize, and that’s why Fortnite won’t return to iOS at this stage.

John Voorhees:

Building alternative storefronts or offering separate payment schemes are no more possible today than they were a week ago. In fact, the Court specifically concluded about the App Store and In-App Purchases, that Apple’s approach is valid[…]

Benedict Evans:

The more I look at this the more questions occur to me. Apps can offer their own payment now, but can Apple require them to offer IAP as well? Yes, on this text. At what price? What if Apple demands both IAP inclusion & price parity? Wouldn’t that mean Spotify was still blocked?

Michael Love:

There’s something unsettling about the fact that all the “actually much narrower” spin on Apple v. Epic has come secondhand through off-the-record “industry sources” and such; if Apple believes YGR did not comprehensively block anti-steering, they should come out and say so.

Personally, I think the injunction is unambiguous in blocking all anti-steering restrictions, and I don’t see anything in the longer opinion to suggest that that wasn’t her intent - she wants something simple to enforce, doesn’t want to get into the weeds of what a “button” is.

I don’t even think it’s particularly clear that developers have to keep offering in-app purchase at all - many of the developers this applies to weren’t offering it in before, the idea that Netflix can only offer an in-app ‘subscribe’ button if there’s an IAP option too is silly.

At the very least, certainly for ‘reader’ apps the combination of existing allowances for selling stuff outside of the app + this new requirement that all apps be allowed to redirect people to other purchase methods should fairly comprehensively end any obligation to use IAP.

Florian Mueller (Hacker News):

Let’s bear in mind that only Epic’s tenth claim succeeded at all. Not only Epic’s federal antitrust claims but also various state law claims failed. The failed state law claims include a couple that were very specifically about offering different IAP systems: Count 8 alleged unreasonable restraints of trade in the iOS IAP processing market under the California Cartwright Act, and Count 9 presented a tying claim related to IAP. Epic’s tenth and last claim--based on California UCL--broadly raised the issue of Epic being “unreasonably prevented from freely distributing mobile apps or its in-app payment processing tool, and forfeit[ing] a higher commission rate on the in-app purchases than it would pay absent Apple’s conduct.” But the court found for Epic under its tenth claim only with respect to the anti-steering provisions.

Florian Mueller:

By coincidence, that case was also an antitrust case as its caption shows. And the same appeals court--the one with which Epic filed its appeal yesterday--clarified that the standard involves “disobedience to a specific and definite court order.” (id.)

The bottom line is that any alleged ambiguity would favor Apple, not developers.


The question is not whether a developer’s interpretation of the injunction is somewhat reasonable. It’s whether Apple’s interpretation is so unreasonable as to constitute disobedience to a specific and definite court order.


Apple won’t even have to approve linking out to websites that merely sell digital items consumed in an iOS app.

Ben Thompson:

Judge Gonzales Rogers disagreed with both, defining the market as ‘mobile game transactions’.


I mentioned above that this was where the decision got a bit complicated; notice that I just used “IAP” and “in-app purchases” to represent two distinct concepts. Specifically, it seems clear that Gonzales Rogers has defined “IAP” to be Apple’s overall commerce system, while “in-app purchases” are purchases made in an app. In other words, Apple is justified in requiring IAP for in-app purchases.

Ryan Jones:

Basically, Judge ruled the same as the Japan anti-steering law, but for all apps: Apple can’t stop linking out.

  • Apple’s 30% rate is not threatened
  • Apple Pay + Stripe is not allowed
  • Apple crushed Epic

Craig Hockenberry:

While the lawyers argue about IAP, the rest of the development ecosystem is stuck with stuff that just plain doesn’t work.

Has anyone been able to get “Reset Eligibility” to work?


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