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Epic Games declares a new battleground in fight against Apple

Fortnite developer Epic Games has officially made its legal battle with Apple into an international one by filing a thirteen-page complaint in the Federal Court of Australia. In the document, Epic Games asserts that Apple is in breach of the Australian Consumer Law and certain parts of the Competition and Consumer Act, which is meant to keep large companies, such as Apple, from using anti-competitive practices.

The basis of Epic Game's anti-competition accusations in Australia is the same as their case against Apple in the United States — that Apple blocks the use of competing payment systems. The showdown between the two technology companies began in August, 2020, when Epic Games' Fortnite iOS app introduced a new method to purchase V-Bucks, the game's currency, bypassing the App Store. Most importantly, it also bypassed the 30% cut that Apple takes from consumer transactions, which prompted Apple to respond to kick Fortnite off the App Store.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney explained why the company chose to file a lawsuit in Australia. Sweeney said, "It's another set of laws under which Apple's practices are clearly in violation. And another chance to get this issue really thoroughly examined." Sweeney also spoke to the burden that the iOS and Google Play Store's 30% commission places on Australian software, explaining, "I doubt there's a single developer in Australia who makes more profit from their own games than Apple and Google make from their games."

In fact, the Australian courts already had their eye on the impact that the iOS App Store and Google Play Store policies have on software developers. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission launched its own investigation into both entities in September to evaluate many different app store practices, including app ranking, data sharing, and whether consumers are protected from malicious software.

While the independent Australian legal inquiry is wide-ranging, it does name the 30% commission charged by Apple and Google as a specific matter of interest. In outlining the potential risk for anti-consumer practices, it references the conflict between Epic Games and Apple, which presumably is another reason why Epic Games brought the case to Australia.

A report from the commission is scheduled to be made available on March 31, 2021, ahead of the May 2021 start date of Epic Games' United States trial. There has yet to be an announcement for the hearings resulting from Epic Games' legal complaint against Apple in the Australian courts.