If Fortnite-maker Epic Games’ Australian legal challenge against Apple is successful, the tech giant may be forced to loosen its grip on its valuable mobile app ecosystem, with Epic arguing that competition law obliges Apple to allow rival stores and payment processing mechanisms on its devices.
Currently, the Apple-controlled App Store is the only way to get apps to consumers on iPhones, which make up more than half of all in-use smartphones in Australia. And all payments for digital goods, in-app purchases and subscriptions must use Apple’s payment mechanism, from which, in most cases, Apple takes a 30 per cent commission.
ACCC chair Rod Sims
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said the Epic case was a well-timed test of the current competition laws, which were recently revised to better prevent misuses of market power
“Apple, as one of the two main app stores, is in a very strong position. It would seem like they have quite a lot of market power and can set the terms and conditions under which various apps operate,” Sims said. (from Tim Biggs at The Age)
Epic Games lawsuit
Epic Games filed suit against Apple in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, on August 2020, challenging Apple’s restrictions on apps from having other in-app purchasing methods outside of the App Store. Founder Tim Sweeney had previously challenged the 30% revenue cut that Apple takes on each purchase made in the App Store. Epic made changes in Fortnite intentionally to bypass the App Store payment system, prompting Apple to block the game from the App Store and leading to the Epic lawsuit.
Epic also filed another lawsuit against Google (GOOGL) the same day, which challenges Google’s similar practices on the Google Play app store for Android, after Google pulled Fortnite following the same update. (Wikipedia)
Services only account for 20% of revenue (FY20) but gross margins (66.0%) are more than double that of products (31.5%). The contribution towards overall operating profit of $66.3 billion is likely to be disproportionately high.
Apple would take a significant profit hit if its monopoly hold over app registration (via its App store) and processing of digital payments was removed. The company is already backing off from its former uncompromising stance, offering to halve commissions on sales via the App store (including In-App purchases), but only for developers with sales of less than $1 million. Allowing free competition from competing app stores and digital payment processors would compress margins even further.
Staff of The Patient Investor do not directly or indirectly own shares in the above company.