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Apple reinstates Epic’s developer account two days after banning it

Apple has reversed course on its decision to ban Epic Games’ developer account after it emerged European Union officials were looking into the issue. The about turn means that Epic will be able to bring its own app store to iPhones and iPads in the EU. The publisher will also be able to more easily bring Fortnite back to those devices in the bloc, nearly four years after Apple kicked the game out of the App Store over an in-app purchases battle (a decision that spurred a drawn-out legal tussle between the two sides).

“Following conversations with Epic, they have committed to follow the rules, including our DMA [Digital Markets Act] policies,” an Apple spokesperson told Engadget. “As a result, Epic Sweden AB has been permitted to re-sign the developer agreement and accepted into the Apple Developer Program.”

“Apple has told us and committed to the European Commission that they will reinstate our developer account,” Epic wrote in an updated blog post. “This sends a strong signal to developers that the European Commission will act swiftly to enforce the Digital Markets Act and hold gatekeepers accountable. We are moving forward as planned to launch the Epic Games Store and bring Fortnite back to iOS in Europe. Onward!”

Apple killed Epic’s developer account earlier this week, claiming that Epic was unlikely to abide by the related contractual agreements. Its lawyers described Epic as “verifiably untrustworthy.”

The sudden about face surely has nothing to do with reports that EU regulators planned to question Apple over the ban. Epic claimed the decision was a “serious violation of the DMA.” Under that law, which just came into effect, Apple is required to allow third-party app stores on iOS in the EU. However, Apple is still forcing companies that want to have their own app marketplace on iPhone to abide by its rules.

Also this week, the EU fined Apple almost $2 billion for suppressing third-party music streaming apps on the App Store by preventing them from telling users that they could subscribe to their services elsewhere for a lower cost than if they signed up through iOS. This was the first fine the EU has given Apple, and the bloc’s third-largest financial penalty ever. Apple is appealing the fine.

Given the even heftier penalties that companies face for failing to comply with the DMA — up to 10 percent of their annual revenue — and the EU showing it’s ready to wield its power when necessary, it’s not too surprising that Apple backed down from its latest scrap with Epic. Indeed, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said Apple backtracked after “a swift inquiry by the European Commission.”

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