US Supreme Court upholds ‘anti-steering’ App Store rules

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In a pivotal decision, the US Supreme Court has ruled that Apple can maintain its current “anti-steering” rules within the App Store while its legal feud with Epic Games continues.

The decision, reported by Bloomberg Law, marks a significant development in the ongoing clash between the two industry giants.

At the heart of the matter are Apple’s anti-steering rules, which prohibit app developers from redirecting users to external purchasing platforms for digital goods, bypassing the App Store. 

This contentious issue was brought to the forefront by the Epic vs Apple case, launched in 2020. The presiding judge initially sided with Epic Games, asserting that Apple should revise its App Store regulations to enable developers to guide customers towards alternative payment methods outside the App Store ecosystem.

Apple, however, has contested this assertion throughout the legal proceedings. Since 2021, the company has successfully delayed implementing the rule changes due to ongoing appeals.

Earlier this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinforced the original ruling, upholding the mandate for App Store rule adjustments. Seizing the opportunity, Apple submitted a request to the Supreme Court to review the case, putting the anticipated alterations on hold pending the high court’s decision.

Although Apple has yet to file the formal appeal with the Supreme Court, a recent emergency plea was lodged by Epic Games.

The gaming company sought to expedite the implementation of anti-steering rule changes, pressing US Supreme Court Judge Elena Kagan to enforce the modification immediately. In a significant setback for Epic Games, Kagan ruled against the appeal, allowing Apple to maintain the status quo for the time being.

The Supreme Court’s ruling signifies a temporary victory for Apple, granting the company a further reprieve from altering its App Store regulations. However, the looming appeal could reshape the landscape entirely. Should the Supreme Court decide not to hear the case, Apple will be compelled to adhere to the lower court’s decision and modify its anti-steering rules, introducing a potential paradigm shift in the app industry.

Throughout the legal battle, Apple has vehemently argued that any changes to the App Store rules would disrupt the delicate equilibrium established between developers and customers within the platform. The company contends that such modifications could lead to irreparable harm for both Apple and consumers, ultimately affecting the core functionalities of the App Store.

As the dispute between Apple and Epic Games unfolds, industry experts and stakeholders eagerly await the Supreme Court’s final decision. The verdict could redefine the landscape of app distribution and in-app purchases, with ramifications that resonate far beyond these two tech giants.

(Photo by James Yarema on Unsplash)

See also: Apple will require developers to explain their API use

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