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Apple Can Delay Changes to App Store Rules, Appeals Court Says.

Apple Can Delay Changes to App Store Rules, Appeals Court Says.
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Apple Can Delay Changes to App Store Rules, Appeals Court Says.

Apple Can Delay Changes to App Store Rules, Appeals Court Says.

The federal appellate court on Wednesday granted Apple a last-minute injunction, agreeing to the company’s request to delay a legal order that would require a policy change in the App Store that could help app developers avoid what they call false charges.

If the appellate court had not ruled, Apple would have allowed companies on Thursday to include links in their apps that would allow customers to pay for those companies’ services or subscriptions. This could have prevented Apple from cutting those transactions by up to 30 percent.

The order was originally issued in September as part of a year-long lawsuit between Apple and Epic Games, the makers of the popular video game Fortnight. Epic has sued Apple, accusing it of engaging in competitive behavior that harms developers and consumers in its fees and strict app store rules.

In a brief document, three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit wrote that Apple could wait until the appeal process for the Epic lawsuit is completed, which could take more than a year.

The decision adds another dimension to the long-running legal battle over whether app developers have the right to inform their customers about ways to pay for their services outside the App Store.

After a three-week trial in May, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers for the Northern District of Auckland ruled in favor of Apple, saying the tech giant had no monopoly.

But she said Apple was violating California competition laws with its so-called anti-steering provisions, which prevented developers from telling their customers how to pay outside the App Store. Judge Gonzalez Rogers ordered Apple to drop its anti-steering rules by December.

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Apple appealed the ruling in October, requesting that Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ stay on the anti-steering rule be stayed until the appeal process is completed. She denied the company’s request in November, but the Federal Court of Appeals did not agree.

“Apple has shown, at least, that its appeal raises serious questions about the quality of the district court’s decision that Epic Games Inc. failed to show that Apple’s conduct violated any no-confidence law, but that the same conduct violated California’s unfair competition laws,” the appellate court judge wrote. He added that Apple has “adequately demonstrated irreversible losses” if it forced the App Store to make policy changes.

In a statement, Apple thanked the Court of Appeals and reiterated its argument against changes to their strict app store rules. “Our concern is that these changes will create new privacy and security threats and disrupt the consumer-friendly user experience about the App Store,” the company said.

Epic Games declined to comment.

With Wednesday’s ruling, Apple bought some time, but if it loses on appeal, it will eventually have to comply with Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ order.

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