A hot potato: Epic Games has suffered another setback as it loses its appeal against Apple's "overbearing" App Store policies. A three-judge applet panel says that the lower courts were correct in their ruling that keeps Apple's distribution platform mostly status quo. However, the across-the-board decision still leaves Cupertino having to allow external payment systems – an order Apple may still try to appeal.

Update (April 25): Shortly after publication an Epic Games spokesperson contacted TechSpot requesting we include a tweeted statement from CEO Tim Sweeney. Sweeney's comment seems to indicate Epic is working on an external platform for Fortnite or possibly other transactions.The tweet follows:

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an early decision that Apple has not violated competition laws by booting Fortnite from the App Store. In September 2021, the lower courts ruled in Apple's favor in all but one of the 10 claims against it. The appellate panel agreed with the outcome, including the order that stated that Apple could not prevent developers from linking to payment options outside of iOS, which was a sizable win for Epic.

The Ninth Circuit acknowledged that the debate about how online stores operate is essential but noted that its job was not to decide on the matter. Its focus was solely on whether the lower court came up with a just decision based on precedent, and in the panel's opinion, it had.

"There is a lively and important debate about the role played in our economy and democracy by online transaction platforms with market power," the judges wrote in their ruling. "Our job as a federal court of appeals, however, is not to resolve that debate – nor could we even attempt to do so. Instead, in this decision, we faithfully applied existing precedent to the facts."

However, further appeals are still possible. Apple told Engadget that it is considering its options for getting the ruling forcing it to allow devs to use outside payment methods overturned.

"Today's decision reaffirms Apple's resounding victory in this case, with nine of ten claims having been decided in Apple's favor," a spokesperson said. "We respectfully disagree with the court's ruling on the one remaining claim under state law and are considering further review."

Epic started the fight in 2020 by blatantly violating Apple's guidelines in offering Fortnite players an alternative means of making in-game purchases. Apple responded as expected by kicking the uber-popular battle royale game out of the App Store. Google followed suit shortly after, and despite the lawsuit's status in the US, moods are shifting toward more open ecosystems.

Pressure from regulators outside the US might bring about more change than Epic's US lawsuit can. While US courts eventually approved Apple's motion to delay lowering the App Store restrictions on external payment systems, heat from international regulators has forced it to relax those same policies. Recent rumors also indicate that Apple might even allow sideloading in the next major update to iOS. Google has been placating overseas regulators similarly.