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Meta, Microsoft, X and Match Group come out swinging against Apple's third-party payment rules

The four companies filed a petition supporting Epic Games in its long-running legal battle with Apple.

REUTERS / Reuters

Several notable names have joined Epic Games in taking a stance against Apple's decision to charge a fee for iOS payments made outside of the App Store. Meta, Microsoft, X and Match Group filed an amicus brief in the case, as The Wall Street Journal reports. That lends some heavyweight backing to Epic's cause.

Apple was forced to enable third-party payments on iOS due to the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA) and a court ruling in the US. It also has to allow alternative app marketplaces on iOS in the EU. The company takes up to a 30 percent cut of App Store purchases. Perhaps fearing that it was about to lose out on a significant chunk of commission, Apple said it would charge a fee of up to 27 percent when developers process purchases outside of the App Store.

Epic this month filed a petition asking District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers to enforce a permanent injunction she issued against Apple in 2021 as part of her ruling in the case between the two companies. The decision compelled Apple to allow developers to direct users to alternative payment systems.

Most of Rogers' ruling was in Apple's favor, however, and both companies appealed the decision all the way up to the Supreme Court. However, in January, the highest court in the US declined to hear the appeals. That means Rogers' permanent injunction against Apple stood, but Epic was not happy about the way Apple implemented the third-party payment changes.

The four companies supporting Epic's petition claim that the fee Apple is charging on external payments effectively leaves the previous rules in place. "The Apple Plan comports with neither the letter nor the spirit of this Court's mandate," their brief states.

As X put it, the 27 percent fee doesn't give developers much incentive to link to external payment methods. Microsoft, which has been working on its own mobile game store, noted that Apple's latest policy limits its ability to offer users subscriptions and discounts. Match Group argued that Apple's decision will affect many developers and users, and that it stymies the court's attempt to offer consumers competition on pricing.

Meta, meanwhile, charges more for its ad-free plans and boosted posts on its iOS apps than it does on the web. (The ad-free subscription is also more expensive in the company's Android apps, as Google takes a cut of in-app payments too). Meta states in the amicus brief that it ought to be able to direct users to other payment options for boosted posts.

Apple claims to have complied with the court order. According to the Journal, the company (which is reportedly facing a Justice Department antitrust case) says its current external link policies are important to protect user privacy and security. Apple has also been dinged over its compliance with the DMA, with critics suggesting the company might be adhering to the letter of the law, but not its spirit.

For what it's worth, Meta, Microsoft, X and Match Group filed their petition one day after the EU's antitrust chief warned Apple over new fees it's charging developers (and Meta over its ad-free subscription). Margrethe Vestager told Reuters that feedback from developers would play an important factor in whether the bloc investages Apple, Meta or any other company subject to the DMA's rules. She noted that she had received "quite a lot" of comments from third parties.

Meanwhile, Epic is gearing up to debut its game store on both iOS and Android later this year. The company said at the Game Developer Conference that the store would be cross-platform between mobile, PC and macOS. The company plans to charge developers of mobile games the same 12 percent cut it takes from PC game sales.