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Apple Faces Contempt Hearings Over App Store Reforms

 |  May 19, 2024

Apple executives are under intense scrutiny from a California federal judge over allegations that the company has not fully complied with court-ordered reforms to its App Store policies. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, based in Oakland, has convened multiple hearings at the behest of Epic Games, which argues that Apple has defied her 2021 injunction aimed at giving app developers more freedom.

The hearings stem from Epic Games’ antitrust lawsuit against Apple, in which the maker of the popular video game “Fortnite” accused the Cupertino-based tech giant of stifling competition and overcharging for in-app purchases. Judge Rogers had ruled that Apple must allow developers to direct users to payment methods outside of the App Store, a move intended to break Apple’s monopoly on app transactions and reduce its commission fees.

Epic Games is now asking Judge Rogers to hold Apple in civil contempt, claiming the company has implemented new practices that violate the spirit of her order. These could include mandating further changes or ending certain App Store practices. Apple, however, has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that it has adhered to the court’s directive.

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In recent testimony, Judge Rogers suggested that Apple’s recent policy adjustments may have been designed to suppress competition. She noted that Epic had preliminarily shown that Apple’s policies “undermine the spirit of the injunction by limiting competition, impeding the free flow of information, and constraining user choice.”

A key figure yet to testify is Philip Schiller, who oversees the App Store. Schiller is expected to address Apple’s decision to introduce a new 27% fee on some app transactions following the injunction. Epic argues that this new fee contradicts Rogers’ order, while Apple contends that Epic wants unrestricted access to Apple’s tools and technologies without cost.

During the hearings, which continue Friday, Judge Rogers has been direct in her questioning, pushing Apple executives for clearer explanations. At one point, she suggested that the changes Apple made were seemingly without justification other than to hinder competition.

Source: Reuters