Apple reverses ban stopping Epic from making own iPhone app store

Apple Inc., facing mounting pressure from regulators in the European Union, has reversed a decision to ban Fortnite maker Epic Games Inc. from offering its own iPhone app marketplace in the region.

Apple will restore a developer account for Epic’s Sweden division, letting the games company move ahead with plans for building its own EU app store.

Apple is required to allow rival marketplaces on its platform under the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which took effect this week.

Epic, based in Cary, North Carolina, announced the move in a blog post Friday.

“Apple has told us and committed to the European Commission that they will reinstate our developer account,” Epic said. “This sends a strong signal to developers that the European Commission will act swiftly to enforce the Digital Markets Act and hold gatekeepers accountable.”

The turnabout comes just a day after Brussels regulators questioned Apple’s decision to bar Epic and raised the prospect of further fines for the iPhone maker.

Apple had banned the still-new Epic Games Sweden AB account earlier this month following criticism from Epic chief executive officer Tim Sweeney.

Sweeney had taken issue with how Apple was complying with the new DMA law, calling it “hot garbage” and a “horror show.”

Epic needs the developer account to launch apps in the region and go ahead with its app marketplace, which will serve as as a substitute for Apple’s App Store.

Until now, the iPhone maker hasn’t permitted the downloading of apps outside its marketplace — a process known as side loading. Apple typically charges a commission of 15% to 30% on purchases within its App Store.

“Following conversations with Epic, they have committed to follow the rules, including our DMA policies,” Cupertino, California-based Apple said in a statement Friday. “As a result, Epic Sweden AB has been permitted to re-sign the developer agreement and accepted into the Apple Developer Program.”

EU official Thierry Breton “noted with satisfaction” on the social media site X that Apple had backtracked on the decision.

Epic’s developer account had already been banned by Apple in the US and elsewhere since 2020, when Epic bypassed Apple’s payment system to sell in-app upgrades to users.

That set off a long conflict between the two companies, ultimately resulting in Apple and Epic going to court.

Apple mostly prevailed, but was forced by a judge to make it easier for developers to point customers to outside payment methods for in-app purchases.

After detailing its plans to comply with new EU regulations earlier this year, Apple moved to mend fences by granting Epic’s Sweden division a developer account in the EU.

But tension flared again. Sweeney complained about new fees that Apple was imposing as part of its DMA compliance, suggesting that it wasn’t following the spirit of the new law.

Late last month, Apple App Store chief Phil Schiller complained to Epic about Sweeney’s remarks.

“Your colourful criticism of our DMA compliance plan, coupled with Epic’s past practice of intentionally violating contractual provisions with which it disagrees, strongly suggest that Epic Sweden does not intend to follow the rules,” Schiller said in an email to Sweeney that was later disclosed by Epic.

“In plain, unqualified terms, please tell us why we should trust Epic this time,” Schiller wrote.

Then, on March 2, Epic’s developer account was banned. Apple defended the move on Wednesday, saying it had the right to terminate Epic entities from its platform.

It cited court determinations that the game maker had committed an “egregious breach of its contractual obligations” and Apple had the right to ban the new account “in light of Epic’s past and ongoing behaviour.”

But after EU regulators and iPhone app developers pushed back against what appeared to be a retaliatory move, Apple reversed course.

Earlier this month, Apple was fined about $2 billion for allegedly harming Spotify Technology SA and other music services in the EU — and the company likely didn’t want to incur more penalties.

It’s unclear what this means for Epic and Fortnite potentially being restored to Apple’s iOS platform outside of the EU.

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Apple reverses ban stopping Epic from making own iPhone app store