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Apple backs down on EU ban for ‘Fortnite’-maker Epic Games

CNN  —  Apple has abruptly reversed a decision to ban Epic Games, the maker of “Fortnite,” from launching its own app store on iOS in Europe — just a day after European Union officials said they were investigating the matter. It’s the first major test of Europe’s new digital competition rules that went into force on Thursday, and it highlights how the Digital Markets Act may already be having an impact on consumers just a day after going into effect. Apple relenting means Epic will be able to bring “Fortnite” back to iPhones in Europe, Epic said in a blog post. “Fortnite” has been unavailable on iOS since 2020, when the two companies went to war over Apple’s developer terms. “Apple has told us and committed to the European Commission that they will reinstate our developer account. This sends a strong signal to developers that the European Commission will act swiftly to enforce the Digital Markets Act and hold gatekeepers accountable,” Epic wrote. Apple said it reached the decision “following conversations with Epic” in which Epic committed to following Apple’s new EU-focused policies. “Epic Sweden AB has been permitted to re-sign the developer agreement and accepted into the Apple Developer Program,” Apple said in a statement. The move comes after the European Commission said it had requested information from Apple about the latest allegations — and after a top EU commissioner, Thierry Breton, warned on X “there is no room for threats by gatekeepers to silence developers” and identified Epic’s complaint as an issue of “priority.” The new EU DMA requires app stores to allow app downloads from third-party sources. Apple’s solution to the rule is a system allowing developers to create all-new iOS apps that act as self-contained app marketplaces. In its complaint to the European Commission, Epic accused Apple of yanking its approval of a developer account because of Epic’s past history of criticizing the iPhone maker. Another alleged reason for revoking the account was Epic’s deliberate, previous violation of Apple’s terms — in order to call out what Epic said was anticompetitive behavior by Apple. Emails that Epic published on Wednesday appeared to bolster those claims, showing Apple leaders telling Epic they expected the company to intentionally breach Apple’s store terms again. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney wrote back to Apple promising to abide by its terms, but Apple rescinded the developer account anyway. In a statement after the emails were published, Apple publicly justified the move by referencing US court rulings that affirmed Apple’s right to terminate Epic’s accounts for any reason. Now, however, Apple appears to have relented in the face of pushback by EU officials — paving the way for Epic, and “Fortnite,” to again become available to players on iOS in Europe.