Fortnite developer Epic Games has been in a long-standing dispute with Apple ever since last summer, when the former decided to try to bypass Apple's payment system to avoid the 30% revenue cut Apple takes on in-app purchases. This resulted in Fortnite being kicked out of the App Store, and led to lawsuits from both sides, the termination of Epic's developer account with Apple, and finally, the formation of a coalition of developers trying to force Apple's hand.
Now, Epic Games has announced that it filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union, accusing the Cupertino giant of holding a monopoly on app distribution on the iPhone. According to Epic, Apple is locking out other companies from doing business on equal terms, preventing them from adopting different payment systems or distributing apps on their own.
Epic's problem is, of course, having to give 30% of its revenue to Apple or Google, since both companies take similar cuts from app and in-app purchases on their platforms. The problem is worse on iOS because, outside of the risky and difficult jailbreaking process, there's no way to install apps on an iPhone from outside the App Store. Epic isn't the only one that has had problems with this, and companies like Amazon offer their services on iOS, but you need to subscribe to them elsewhere. The iOS app is only an access point once you've already subscribed.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney accused Apple of inflating prices for consumers and affecting the livelihood of developers due to its practice:
“What’s at stake here is the very future of mobile platforms. Consumers have the right to install apps from sources of their choosing and developers have the right to compete in a fair marketplace. We will not stand idly by and allow Apple to use its platform dominance to control what should be a level digital playing field. It’s bad for consumers, who are paying inflated prices due to the complete lack of competition among stores and in-app payment processing. And it’s bad for developers, whose very livelihoods often hinge on Apple’s complete discretion as to who to allow on the iOS platform, and on which terms.”
On Android, it is possible to install apps from outside the Play Store to circumvent those payment rules, though Google tries to prevent that from happening. However, following the complaints from Epic, Google did promise it would make it easier for users to install third-party app stores with future versions of Android.
Epic says it's not seeking compensation from Apple, and claims that the battle is more than a duel between the two companies. Its goal is to allow developers and consumers to have more choice when it comes to how apps are distributed and installed. The European Commission has already begun investigating Apple's App Store practices last summer due to complaints from other developers, and Epic's complaint here is just adding fuel to the fire.