A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted Apple a last-minute reprieve and approved the company’s motion to postpone a court order requiring it to make policy changes to its app store that could help app developers avoid allegedly unfair fees.
If the appeals court hadn’t ruled, Apple should have started on Thursday to allow companies to include links in their apps that direct customers to external websites where they can pay for those companies’ services or subscriptions. That would have prevented Apple from making a cut of up to 30 percent on these transactions.
The order was initially placed in September as part of the Judgment in years of legal proceedings between Apple and Epic Games, creator of the popular video game Fortnite. Epic sued Apple and accused it of anticompetitive behavior that harmed developers and consumers through its fees and strict App Store rules.
In a brief document, three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District wrote that Apple could wait to make changes until the appeal process on the Epic lawsuit was completed, which could take more than a year.
The ruling adds another kink to a lengthy legal battle over whether app developers have the right to inform their customers about payment options for their services outside of the app store.
After a three week test In May, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the US District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland ruled largely in Apple’s favor, saying the tech giant was not a monopoly.
However, she said Apple was violating California competition law with its so-called anti-steering provision, which prevented developers from giving their customers options to pay outside the app store. Judge Gonzalez Rogers ordered Apple to lift the anti-steering rule by December.
Apple appealed the judgment in October, requesting the suspension of Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ injunction on the anti-steering rule pending the completion of the appeal process. she declined the company’s request in November, but the federal appeals court disagreed with her.
“Apple has at least proven that its appeal raises serious doubts about the District Court’s finding that Epic Games Inc. wrote the appeals court judge. They added that Apple had also “shown sufficient irreparable damage” to the App Store when it was forced to make policy changes.
In a statement, Apple thanked the appeals court and reiterated its argument against adapting its strict App Store rules. “Our concern is that these changes would have created new privacy and security risks and disrupted the user experience that customers love on the App Store,” the company said.
Epic Games declined to comment.
Apple bought some time with Wednesday’s ruling, but may ultimately have to obey Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ orders if it loses on appeal.