Fortnite maker Epic denied right to sue Apple in the UK

James Titcomb
·2 min read
Fortnite was removed from iPhones last year - AFP
Fortnite was removed from iPhones last year - AFP

The maker of video game Fortnite has been dealt a setback in its global legal campaign against Apple after the UK’s competition tribunal denied it permission to mount a challenge to the iPhone maker’s app rules.

Mr Justice Roth said Epic Games’ case seeking a wave of major changes to Apple’s giant App Store belonged in the US courts, where the company has a separate claim. However, he allowed a similar claim against Google to partially proceed in the UK.

Epic, whose Fortnite title is one of the world’s biggest video games, has fought a legal battle on multiple fronts against Apple, seeking to break what it says is the company’s unfair stranglehold on how iPhone apps are distributed.

Apple controls what apps can be installed on iPhones and iPads through its App Store, and takes a fee of up to 30pc on purchases made within those apps, while Google has similar restrictions for Android phones.

Fortnite was booted off both Apple and Google’s platforms last year after Epic sought to bypass the companies’ payment systems, triggering monopoly lawsuits against both from the video game maker.

Epic is demanding injunctions that would allow rival app stores on smartphones and let app developers use alternative payment methods, both of which would deprive Apple and Google of billions in revenue.

The company took the issue to the Competition Appeal Tribunal in December, seeking similar measures under UK competition law.

On Monday, the judge said: “The US is an appropriate forum for this dispute. And I am far from persuaded that [the UK] is clearly or distinctly the more appropriate forum.” However, he opened the possibility of Epic pursuing Apple in the UK if it is unsuccessful in the US courts.

He allowed parts of a case against Google, including an effort to break its control on app payments, to proceed since Epic’s case against Google included an Irish subsidiary and the case was launched during the Brexit transition period.

Epic indicated it was likely to suspend its UK case against Apple until the US suit concludes. “We are pleased that the Court has granted Epic permission to pursue our case against Google in the UK,” a spokesperson said. “Epic will reconsider pursuing its case against Apple in the UK after the resolution of the US case.”

Epic noted that the tribunal said there were “serious issues to be tried” under UK law and said it was “unwavering in our commitment to stopping Apple and Google’s anti-competitive practices”. Apple and Google did not comment.

Epic has also complained to EU competition regulators and taken Apple to court in Australia.