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Epic files suit against Apple, Google after Fortnite removal from app stores

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Epic Games filed suit against Apple and Google on Thursday after the platforms de-listed Fortnite, one of the most popular games in the world, from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, respectively.

Similar language is used in both complaints, with Epic Games arguing that Apple and Google holdsmonopoly power around the distribution of apps made for their operating software. In the Apple complaint specifically, Epic calls into question Apple's cut for in-app purchases made on iPhone and iPad devices. Apple notably takes 30% of payments made by consumers using their payment processing methods, about ten times more than most payment processors such as Google Pay, PayPal, Stripe and Square, all which take roughly 3%, Epic said. In their suits, Epic is not seeking monetary compensation from the companies, but is rather hoping the court will rule to open up the App Store and Google Play Store and prevent the owners from taking such a high cut.

"Epic is not seeking monetary compensation from this Court for the injuries it has suffered," the Apple suit, filed in Northern California on Thursday, reads. "Nor is Epic seeking favorable treatment for itself, a single company. Instead, Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers."

Epic sticks to similar wording in the Google suit.

"Epic does not seek monetary compensation from this Court for the injuries it has suffered," the filing reads. "Epic likewise does not seek a side deal or favorable treatment from Google for itself. Instead, Epic seeks injunctive relief that would deliver Google's broken promise: an open, competitive Android ecosystem for all users and industry participants. Such injunctive relief is sorely needed."

Earlier on Thursday, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store after Epic provided a way for consumers to buy V-Bucks in-game currency directly from Epic using other payment processing methods, with Google following suit later in the day. Users who do not have Fortnite previously installed on their device will not be able to download the game onto an iOS device until the dispute between the two companies is resolved; Fortnite is still available on the Google Play Store, however.

In a statement to The Verge on Thursday, prior to the injunction, Apple said it plans to work with Epic to resolve these issues.

"Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users," Apple said in a statement. "As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services."

Prior to its removal Fortnite -- which released in 2018 on mobile -- was one of the most popular games on all of the App Store. It is one of the most popular games in the world, with notable audiences among young children, and iOS is one of its biggest platforms. Epic, which is based in North Carolina and previously developed Gears of War and Unreal Tournament, ballooned in financial success after Fortnite took off globally in 2018. Bloomberg reported in June that the company is now worth nearly $17 billion.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was one of four major tech company executives to appear in front of a bipartisan Congressional committee on July 29 regarding their companies' power on the internet and antitrust. In that hearing, Cook was grilled for Apple's policies around App Store distribution -- with several lawmakers alleging that Apple would copy app ideas from developers who were their competitors, then delist those apps from the App Store. Apple's 30% revenue cut also came up in that hearing. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Google CEO Sundar Pichai also appeared alongside Cook.

At the end of that hearing, Rep.David N. Cicilline (D-RI) ended the hearing with a jarring quote, comparing Cook, Zuckerberg, Bezos and Pichai and their companies to famous American monopolists of the past Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller.

"This hearing has made one fact clear to me: these companies as exist today have monopoly power. Some need to be broken up, all need to be properly regulated and held accountable. We need to ensure the antitrust laws first written a century ago work in the digital age. When these laws were written, the monopolists were men named Rockefeller and Carnegie. They're control of the marketplace allowed them to do whatever it took to crush independent businesses and expand their own power.

"The names have changed, the story is the same. Today the men are named Zuckerberg, Cook, Pichai and Bezos."