Competition regulator the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) is applying to the Federal Court to appear as part of a local legal battle between Fortnite maker Epic Games and Apple over control of the App Store.
Epic has filed an anti-competition complaints against Apple in the European Union, UK, US and Australia over App Store commissions, as well as a range of restrictive conditions on the platform.
Epic’s flagship case against Apple got underway in a California court last week. The Verge is covering the three-week trial here.
Meanwhile, European Union regulators have accused Apple of breaching its antitrust laws and distorting competition for music streaming rivals such as Spotify.
Epic’s Australian case was put on hold by Federal Court last month, with Justice Nye Perram granting a three-month stay on proceedings ahead of the US case. Apple is seeking to have the matter thrown out, arguing the matter belongs exclusively before the California court.
Epic is appealing Justice Perram’s decision and today the ACCC announced it was seeking leave to join that appeal.
The ACCC already has Apple in its sights, last month releasing the second part of its Digital Platform Services Inquiry interim report, saying the “significant market power” of the Apple App Store and Google Play in Australia needs to be addressed to give app developers better terms and conditions.
Now the ACCC wants to appear as an ‘amicus curiae’ (‘friend of the Court’), to make submissions to the Full Court about the public policy in favour of disputes involving Australia’s competition laws being heard and determined in local courts.
An expedited hearing on the matter is planned for June 9 before the Full Federal Court.
ACCC Chair Rod Sims said the regulator was taking the unusual step of seeking leave to appear in the appeal because it raises significant public policy issues about the administration of local competition law.
“We believe it is in the public interest for significant competition law cases such as this case to be determined by Australian courts, given the outcome of such cases can have significant implications for the broader Australian economy,” he said.
If granted leave to appear, the ACCC would not become a party to the proceedings, but would make submissions on limited issues.
The ACCC’s application for leave to appear is only for the appeal from the stay in proceedings. The ACCC has not sought leave to appear in the substantive proceedings, where Epic has alleged that Apple has breached the Competition and Consumer Act by not allowing alternative app stores on its iOS operating system for Apple mobile devices, and by charging app developers up to a 30% commission on in-app purchases.
Mounting pressure against the commission charges saw Apple announce last year that it would halve the 30% commission charged on sales through their app ecosystems to 15% for smaller app developers.