Fortnite' Maker, Spotify Form Advocacy Group to Push for App Store Changes -- Update
By Sarah E. Needleman
Companies including "Fortnite" maker Epic Games Inc., Spotify
Technology SA and Tinder owner Match Group Inc. have forged an
alliance to pressure Apple Inc. and other app-store operators to
make changes to their marketplace rules.
The Coalition for App Fairness, a nonprofit registered in
Washington, D.C., made its public debut Thursday, saying most app
stores collect excessive commissions from software developers on
users' digital purchases and stifle competition by giving unfair
advantages to their own products and services.
The group was registered after Epic sued Apple and Alphabet
Inc.'s Google over the removal of "Fortnite" from their respective
app stores. A coalition spokeswoman said the group wasn't created
in response to Epic's lawsuit but as part of conversations among
developers about their app-store experiences and shared desire for
As a social-welfare organization, it plans to push for legal and
regulatory changes to how companies are allowed to operate app
stores, the spokeswoman said. Many social-welfare entities don't
have formally registered lobbyists and are set up to rally support
from the public for their cause.
"The gatekeeper platforms that operate these app stores must not
abuse the control they enjoy and must adhere to oversight to ensure
their behaviors promote a competitive market and provide consumers
with equitable choice," the self-funded group said in a statement.
Other founding members include ProtonMail email service owner
Proton Technologies AG, trade group News Media Europe and
project-management software maker Basecamp LLC.
Apple declined to comment on the coalition's creation.
Separately the company on Thursday said it updated its web pages to
better illustrate the benefits the App Store presents to both
developers and users. The iPhone maker also released new data
showing the App Store's global reach, saying it has more than 28
million members in its developer program world-wide.
A spokesperson for Google didn't respond to a request for
App marketplaces have evolved to become the gateway for how
consumers access everything from entertainment to education and now
are responsible for billions of dollars of economic activity
annually. These app stores have also been a growing source of
revenue for companies including Apple and Google, as they collect a
cut from sales of paid apps, digital subscriptions and in-app
The increased importance of the app stores has also generated
more scrutiny over how they operate. Apple has recently faced
public criticism from a number of large companies, such as
Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. A group representing news
publishers including the New York Times, the Washington Post and
The Wall Street Journal last month sent a letter to Apple saying it
wanted to know what it would take for them to get better App Store
deal terms. Apple is also being investigated by Congress, the
Justice Department, the European Union and the Federal Trade
Commission on antitrust grounds.
Apple has defended itself, saying that its app-store commission
is in line with what most other app marketplaces charge and that it
provides services including user security and privacy.
The battle over app store rules is currently playing out in
California federal court. Epic sued Apple as well as Google in
August after the tech giants removed "Fortnite" -- one of the
world's most popular videogames, with 350 million registered users
-- from their app marketplaces. The companies made the move because
Epic added an unauthorized payment system to the shooter-survival
game that skirted their 30% commission on in-app purchases.
Apple earlier this month countersued Epic, asking a federal
judge to award punitive damages and restrict the developer from
continuing what it describes as unfair business practices. The next
court hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Epic has been spoiling for a fight, releasing on the same day it
sued Apple and Google a video parody of Apple's famous "1984"
commercial, with the iPhone maker cast as Big Brother. The closely
held developer also launched a "Fortnite" tournament with prizes
such as hats designed to show animosity toward Apple. And it pushed
users to promote the hashtag #FreeFortnite across the internet, in
addition to publishing on its website a point entitled "Why We
Fight" explaining its mission to players.
The new coalition said it wants app developers to be permitted
to use payment systems and other ancillary services of their own
choosing, among other demands.
"The basic freedoms of developers are under attack," said Tim
Sweeney, chief executive and founder of Epic.
Write to Sarah E. Needleman at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 24, 2020 10:51 ET (14:51 GMT)
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