French iOS developers sue Apple for antitrust violations over the App Store fees

Another antitrust case against Apple about its Software Store fees has been launched, this time in the state of California by a group of French iOS app developers who are suing the tech giant. The plaintiffs claim that Apple engaged in anti-competitive behavior by creating a monopoly in the distribution of iOS apps and requiring developers to pay exorbitant commissions on in-app sales by authorising only one App Store for iOS devices.

The complaint claims that in addition to Apple’s $99 annual developer programme fees, these commissions reduce developers’ earnings and stifle innovation. However, according to Apple’s App Store rules, developers aren’t allowed to offer alternative payment methods, nor can they distribute their iOS apps outside of the App Store, even though Apple permits this for Mac users.

The case is now one of numerous antitrust legal disputes Apple is up against, such as the well-known litigation with Fortnite creator Epic Games, which is appealing, and another by rival software store Cydia.

Société du Figaro, a France-based developer of the Figaro news app, L’Équipe 24/24, a France-based developer of the L’Équipe sports news and streaming app, and le GESTE, a French association made up of France-based publishers of online content and services, including iOS app developers, are among the iOS developers named in the lawsuit.

The organisation is being represented by the American law firm Hagens Berman, which recently launched a $1 billion lawsuit against Apple over antitrust concerns with Apple Pay and last year secured a $100 million settlement against Apple over App Store regulations.

Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, has a track record of success taking on the big tech companies. He has obtained settlements totaling $560 million against Apple for e-book price-fixing and $90 million on behalf of Android developers. He is collaborating on the potential class action case with antitrust attorney Fayrouze Masmi-Dazi of Paris.

We’re eager to resume the fight after our hard-won settlement with Apple, according to Berman, who released a statement. “Our business is pleased to see that iOS developers from other nations are fighting for the same justice that we were able to get for American developers. We want to bring Apple to the law because we feel that they were also unjustly subjected to the restrictive regulations of Apple’s App Store.

The lawsuit intends to pressure Apple to abolish pricing rules that prevent developers from determining their own prices for in-app purchases and to permit competition in the distribution of iOS apps. Additionally, it demands that Apple pay back “overcharges” to developers and refrain from boosting the existing 15 percent commission rate for developers participating in its Small Business Program for at least three years.

The proposed settlement would also let American iOS developers working for Apple to talk to their users outside of their applications about alternatives to Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism. Subject to consumer authorization and opt-outs, developers would be permitted to engage with users using the data acquired by their applications. However, Apple previously made an announcement last year that permits such communication, and as a result, revised the App Store policies to reflect this change.

It wouldn’t be the first antitrust case against Apple in France if the developers prevail. The internet giant disputed the €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) sentence it received in 2020 from the French Competition Authority for antitrust offences including limits in wholesaler contracts. Additionally, the European startup organisation France Digitale has been a vocal opponent of Apple’s business methods and was preparing its own legal defence.