Judge loosens Apple's grip on app store in Epic decision

<p><p>SAN RAMON, Calif. — A federal judge ordered Apple to dismantle part of the competitive barricade guarding its closely run app store, threatening one of the iPhone maker’s biggest moneymakers.</p></p><p><p>It could potentially also save app developers billions of dollars that could encourage them to lower the prices paid by consumers.</p></p><p><p>The challenge was mounted by Epic Games, best known as the maker of Fortnite, the popular video game played by about 400 million people worldwide.</p></p><p><p>Apple shares dipped sharply immediately upon the issuance of the ruling and was trading down 3% Friday. Epic, based in Cary, North Carolina, is a private company.</p></p><p><p>The legal battle targeted commissions of up to 30% that Apple has been charging on digital transactions within apps.</p></p><p><p>Such transactions can include everything from Netflix or Spotify subscriptions to the sale of digital item such as songs, movies or virtual tchotchkes for video games.</p></p><p><p>Epic cast that highly lucrative fee as a price-gouging tactic that wouldn’t be possible if competing stores were allowed to offer iPhone apps.</p></p><p><p>An appeal of the ruling by one or both companies seems likely.</p></p><p><p>The 185-page ruling issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers comes three months after the conclusion of a trial focused on one of the pillars holding up Apple’s $2 trillion empire — one that Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs began to shape 20 years ago.</p></p><p><p>Since that trial ended, Apple has taken two steps to loosen some of its app store rules — one to settle a lawsuit and another to appease Japanese regulators without altering its commissions.</p></p><p><p>Those concessions make it easier for many apps to prod their users to pay for digital transactions in ways that avoid triggering Apple’s fees.</p></p>