Australia’s Federal Court on Friday decided that Epic Games’ antitrust case against Apple can move forward, a reversal of a previous ruling that put the action on ice as the two parties await a ruling in the U.S.
Epic first lodged suit against against Apple in Australia last November, claiming the iPhone maker’s tight control over the App Store ran afoul of the country’s antirust laws. Like a nearly identical case in the U.S., that has since been heard in California court, Epic took issue with Apple’s cut of App Store sales, policies prohibiting outside payments processing and restrictions on third-party app stores.
In December, Apple asked Australia’s Federal Court to toss the case, citing the pending U.S. action. After considering the motion, Justice Nye Perram granted Apple a three-month stay that would be made permanent if Epic failed to move forward with the U.S. case.
Epic appealed, arguing that the public policy issues in play were more important than jurisdictional formalities. The Full Federal Court heard the appeal on Friday and agreed with Epic, overturning Perram’s decision, reports The Australian Financial Review.
“Epic Games is pleased that our case will proceed with the Federal Court and be examined in the context of Australian laws,” Epic said in a statement. “This is a positive step forward for Australian consumers and developers, who are entitled to fair access and competitive pricing across mobile app stores. We look forward to continuing our fight for increased competition in app distribution and payment processing in Australia and around the world.”
Apple vowed to appeal and in a statement said, “The initial decision in April from Australia’s Federal Court correctly ruled that Epic should be held to the agreement it made to resolve disputes in California. We respectfully disagree with the ruling made today and plan to appeal.”
Apple’s handling of the App Store is the focus of Epic’s legal thrust. The developer fomented the scrum last August when it quietly implemented an alternative in-app payment option for its massively popular game, “Fortnite.” By sidestepping the App Store’s commission mechanism, Epic openly flouted Apple’s developer agreement. Apple pulled the app that same day and later deactivated Epic’s developer account, triggering a prepared legal thrust and polished media blitz from Epic.
Epic brought its case against Apple in the U.S., Australia and the UK, though the latter was shot down in February. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers is due to rule on the U.S. action in the coming months.
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