Bloomberg News

By Anna Edgerton

A judge’s decision in Epic Games Inc.’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple Inc. supports the need for federal legislation to break the hold that device makers have over their app stores, lawmakers said.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, the chair of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, said Friday’s ruling backs up some of the conclusions from a hearing earlier this year that examined claims of anticompetitive conduct by Apple and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

“While the ruling addresses some of those concerns, much more must be done,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “We need to pass federal legislation on app store conduct to protect consumers, promote competition and foster innovation.”

Klobuchar, together with Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn, introduced a Senate bill last month that would change how consumers download and use apps on Apple and Google devices. They are continuing to push for the bipartisan legislation, even after changes Apple announced for its App Store earlier this month.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers concluded in Friday’s ruling that Apple has engaged in anticompetitive conduct that harms consumers, and she ordered Apple to allow app developers to steer consumers to outside payment methods. But she rejected Epic’s argument that Apple is an illegal monopoly. She ordered Epic, maker of the popular Fortnite game, to pay at least $4 million in damages to Apple for breach of contract.

Blumenthal tweeted that the ruling is “insufficient & disappointing. It is now up to Congress to take meaningful action.”

Blackburn said Apple “abused its power to bully and profit off of smaller companies,” and called for app store changes to be mandated by federal legislation.

“All businesses should be able to communicate with their customers and not be held hostage by monopolistic behavior,” Blackburn said. “This ruling underscores why legislative action, like my legislation with Senators Blumenthal and Klobuchar, is needed to increase competition in the app store market.”

Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline, the Democrat who chairs the House antitrust subcommittee and led an investigation of U.S. tech giants including Apple, said the decision highlights the need for Congress to establish new rules for app stores.

The Senate bill, which has a bipartisan companion bill in the House, would require devices to host alternative app stores, let consumers make purchases using alternative payment systems and give app developers access to all aspects of iPhone hardware, including components that previously remained exclusive to Apple’s apps and accessories.