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Epic's UK App Store lawsuit shut down by competition court

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Epic Games has failed in its attempt to bring its Apple App Store legal dispute to the United Kingdom, with the Competition Appeal Tribunal ruling the dispute is outside its jurisdiction.

On January 14, Epic Games attempted to increase the pressure against Apple by filing a complaint against the iPhone maker in the United Kingdom. A complaint filed with the U.K. antitrust tribunal claimed it was unlawful for Apple to pull "Fortnite" from the App Store, and that Apple abused its "dominant position."

In a ruling issued on Monday, the Competition Appeal Tribunal declared it wasn't able to hear the case at all. Justice Roth, presiding over the virtual hearing that took place on Saturday, used the meeting to determine whether the court has any right to make a decision on the matter at all.

Epic's legal action was against two of Apple's organizations, covering Apple Inc. based in the United States, and Apple (UK) Limited. While the former is Apple itself, the latter is a wholly-owned subsidiary of its US counterpart.

Epic reasoned that the UK arm of Apple was a defendant alongside the US-based version as it "provides support to UK developers of apps."

The claims of anti-competitive practices by Apple included the usual accusation that Apple was the sole channel for app distribution on iOS, that it used a dominant position to charge "unfair prices" for distribution, and Apple's response to Epic's sudden introduction of its own payment mechanism as "price competition."

Ultimately, Justice Roth decided that Apple's UK company provides services, but it was "not a party" to developer agreements, nor responsible for which apps made it into the App Store at all. "I find it difficult on this basis to see that (Apple UK) can be liable for any of the breaches of competition law alleged," the court determined.

"Therefore I find there is no serious issue to be tried as against A2 (Apple UK), and it follows that the claim against A1 (Apple US) does not satisfy gateway 3," the court added. Gateway 3 refers to whether a claim is being made against a "necessary or proper party," which it deemed the UK company was not.

As the court has jurisdiction over the UK arm but not the US version, and that Apple UK ultimately wasn't responsible for the actions and decisions of Apple US, the court could not rightfully hear the case.

"In the Apple action, the application for permission to serve the proceedings on A1 out of the jurisdiction is refused," the final judgment reads.

While the legal action between Epic and Apple ends in the UK, it's not the same story for Google, another target of the same complaint. For some elements of Epic's complaint, the court granted permission for Epic to continue its action against Google.

The attempted lawsuit is the latest in Epic's attempt to force Apple to change its policies regarding the App Store. This has included demands for Apple to allow alternative payment mechanisms to exist for in-app purchases beyond its own system, and a reduction of the 30% "Apple Tax."

Epic has also requested for Apple to allow third-party app stores to exist on iOS, which would provide an opportunity for the Epic Games Store to sell iOS games.

Other lawsuits and complaints have been filed by Epic, including an antitrust complaint with the European Union, an ongoing suit in the United States, and filings with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

It was revealed in February that the entire situation was premeditated by Epic Games. The company spent months working on the plan and preparing a 60-page lawsuit and parody video before springing its alternative payment mechanism on Apple, in what it internally called "Project Liberty."