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Office of the Attorney General (Photo: oag.ca.gov)

California Attorney General Prepares To Add Voice To Epic Games v. Apple Inc. Lawsuit

‘It’s a big ruling with a lot of implications ranging from online app payments to trust busting’

By Evan Symon, December 23, 2021 1:47 pm

The California Attorney General’s office is prepared to take their own position on how the California Unfair Competition Law is interpreted in the Epic Games Inc. v. Apple Inc. ruling on Wednesday, potentially altering how certain online payments are made.

The Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit dates back to 2020 and challenges how different online payments can be made. Epic Games, a video game company behind some of the largest game series in the world, such as Fortnite, offered many games through online services, including through the Apple App Store. The company was against Apple maintaining a 30% cut of sales, while also opposing that all transactions had to be made through their App Store rather than through their own service or a third party transaction service.

In August 2020, Epic Games finally changed how payments could be made on Apple devices, essentially bypassing the Apple service. Apple quickly blocked the game from their App Store, resulting in Epic suing Apple in Court. Apple, in turn, filed a countersuit.

Following a May 2021 trial, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the District Court for Northern California ruled in favor of Apple in September on all but one count, clearing them of violating any anti-trust laws. In the final count, Rogers ruled that Apple had indeed been steering payments through the company’s own system illegally to continue to receive percentages of sales, breaking the Unfair Competition law.

Both Epic and Apple filed Appeals in the next few months. Apple wants the last count gone, as other anti-steering lawsuits had previously forced Apple to no longer steer consumers from within their App. A stay was also given earlier this month on part of the ruling, specifically halting Apple from having to include links to other payment systems on its app.

Epic, meanwhile, has appealed the ruling that Apple is not a monopoly with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

With final rulings now far from over, the state Attorney General’s office filed in court on Wednesday that they want to play a part in how the law is interpreted. However, the state will not officially jump in until Apple gives a more detailed argument in their appeal and why Judge Gonzalez was wrong.

“Apple is fighting a lot of lawsuits right now, and one of the main ones is the Epic Games one,” said New York-based lawyer Rob Marcantonio, who has been involved in both anti-trust lawsuits as well as suits involving video game companies, to the Globe Thursday. “And since Apple is a very important Californian company, and the ruling specifically used one of California’s main business protection laws, the state now wants some input into it, which makes sense.”

“A lot of people hear the case being about Apple and video games and kind of dismiss it, but it really is a big ruling with a lot of implications ranging from online app payments to trust busting one of the largest computer companies in the country. That’s why they both appealed quickly afterwards and that’s why California is now trying to get involved. It’s big.”

The state is expected to have a clearer position on the matter soon.

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