Tuesday’s testimony put Apple’s anti-steering rules in the judicial spotlight.
From The Verge’s “Epic v. Apple keeps coming back to the gap between ignorance and inconvenience” posted Tuesday:
Last week, the judge in Epic v. Apple asked whether Epic really had an antitrust case against Apple, or whether it just wanted to help kids make impulse purchases. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers was talking about the importance of where and how people pay for their apps, and today she continued that line of questioning to the point of suggesting a kind of App Store policy change that Epic never originally put on the table.
Epic sued Apple for banning Fortnite from iOS over a direct payment system for V-Bucks, Fortnite’s in-game currency. Epic called that unfair and monopolistic. But Apple argued that it lets developers sell in-app purchases through its Safari browser, even at a discounted price — so there’s no lockout. And while Epic itself has focused on explaining why web apps aren’t a good substitute for native ones, its expert witness David Evans brought up another major issue: anti-steering rules.
Anti-steering rules (in this context) refer to rules that ban developers from pointing users outside of Apple’s ecosystem. iOS developers can’t add links or references telling people to get a better deal on their website, or send emails to accounts created through Apple…
[Economist Susan] Athey argued that “consumers do get klutzy and disconnected and sensitive to delays when trying to complete that type of activity,” and telling people to go use a web browser doesn’t solve that problem. But [Judge] Rogers could easily decide that inconvenience and enforced ignorance are separate issues, and that only the latter is a serious antitrust concern.
Getting rid of anti-steering provisions would be a comparatively small win for Epic, which wants to put full-fledged third-party App Stores on iOS. But it’s a smartphone ecosystem feature that’s often overshadowed by bigger antitrust complaints — and Epic v. Apple is putting it under the spotlight.
My take: A small win for Epic would be a big win for Apple.