Apple is facing yet another antitrust lawsuit over its App Store fees, this time filed by a group of French iOS app developers who are suing the tech giant in its home state of California. The plaintiffs are accusing Apple of anticompetitive practices in allowing only one App Store for iOS devices, which gives it a monopoly on iOS app distribution and the power to force developers to pay higher commissions on in-app purchases.
The complaint argues that these commissions, on top of Apple’s $99 annual developer program fees, reduce developers’ earnings and stifle innovation — and yet developers aren’t allowed by Apple’s App Store rules to offer alternative payment methods or distribute their apps. no iOS users outside the App Store, even if Apple allows it on Mac computers.
The case is one of several antitrust legal battles Apple is now facing, including a high-profile lawsuit by Fortnite maker Epic Games, which is under appeal, and another alternative App Store sider.
iOS developers include France-based developer Société du Figaro, developer of the Figaro news app; L’Équipe 24/24, developer of the L’Équipe sports news and streaming app; and le GESTE, a French association of France-based publishers of online content and services, including iOS app developers.
The group is represented by the US-based Hagens Berman law firm, which last year won a $100 million settlement against Apple over App Store policies and recently filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Apple over antitrust issues with Apple Pay.
Hagens Berman managing partner Steve Berman has a history of winning against tech giants, securing a $560 million settlement against Apple over e-book pricing and a $90 million settlement on behalf of Android developers. He is working with Paris-based antitrust lawyer Fairuz Masmi-Daji on the proposed class action lawsuit.
“We’re fresh off the heels of our hard-won settlement with Apple and ready to get back in the ring,” Berman said in a statement. “Our firm is happy to see iOS developers in other countries seek the same justice that we have been able to achieve for US developers. We believe they too have been unfairly victimized by Apple’s stifling App Store policies, and we want to hold Apple accountable.”
The lawsuit aims to force Apple to allow competition in iOS app distribution and remove pricing mandates that prevent developers from setting their own rates for in-app purchases. It requires Apple to reimburse developers for “overcharges” and bars Apple from raising the current 15% commission for developers in its small business program for at least three years.
In addition, the proposed settlement would allow Apple’s US iOS developers to communicate outside of their apps with their customers about other ways to make purchases outside of Apple’s in-app purchasing system. Developers will be permitted to contact customers using information collected by their apps, subject to customer consent and opt-out. Apple, however, had already announced a settlement allowing such communications last year and subsequently updated its App Store rules to reflect the change.
If the developers win, it won’t be the first antitrust action against Apple in France. The tech giant was fined 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) by the French Competition Authority in 2020 for antitrust violations related to restrictions in contracts with wholesalers, which it appealed. In addition, European startup association France Digital has also been a prominent critic of Apple’s practices, and was working on its own legal action.
Reuters first reported the news of the filing. Apple has yet to comment.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is embedded below
Hagens Berman Antitrust Class-Action Lawsuit Against Apple’s App Store Fees TechCrunch Scribd