Tim Cook defends App Store rules during antitrust trial

Tim Cook defends App Store rules during antitrust trial
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Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the company's App Store rules during testimony Friday, claiming they protect users’ security.

Cook's testimony came during the Silicon Valley giant’s legal battle against Fortnite developer Epic Games. 

Cook touted the tech giant’s App Store as an “economic miracle” and defended the policies related to the store including the up to 30 percent commission fees charged to developers at the core of Epic Games’s antitrust allegations. 

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The app developer is suing the company over allegations of anti-competitive behavior stemming from Apple's decision in August to kick Fortnite off of the app store after the developer set up its own in-app payment system in an attempt to avoid Apple’s 30 percent commission fees. 

The trial in California federal court, which concluded its third week Friday, comes at a pivotal moment when lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and abroad are taking a close look at the market power of Apple and fellow tech giants. 

Cook testified that Apple has a host of competitors in the field, such as app stores on Android products and game consoles. 

He defended Apple’s policies, including its requirement for app developers to use Apple’s in-app payment system, saying the company puts users’ interests first and is committed to protecting their data and security. 

Apple does not allow third-party app stores on its iPhones. Cook said third-party stores would not be as motivated to provide a safe and secure store for users. 

Epic’s lawyer pressed Cook on the stance, asking how he knows if a third party could not do as well as, or better than, Apple at protecting user security since they have not had the opportunity. 

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“It’s an experiment I wouldn’t want to run,” Cook responded. 

Pressed further on if consumers who value privacy could decide to use Apple’s store even if there were other options they may deem better, Cook said it’s a hypothetical possibility. 

The bench trial is set to wrap up on Monday, but Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has said her ruling will not be issued that day or the next. 

"I have a very tiny team,” she said earlier in the week. 

The judge has also acknowledged that whatever her decision is will likely be appealed. 

Washington is expected to be keeping a close eye on the trial. 

Apple’s app store has come under fire as lawmakers scrutinize the market power of tech giants. Last month, the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee held a hearing on app store competition, featuring executives from Apple and Google.