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Why 37 US states are taking Google to court over its Play Store monopoly

Another multi-state lawsuit

Why 37 US states are taking Google to court over its Play Store monopoly
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

A total of 37 US states, including California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado, and Washington have launched an antitrust lawsuit against Google last night.

The case argues that the firm uses its position of power to distribute apps through the Play Store, and charges a hefty cut from app developers. Notably, Google charges 30% fees for in-app purchases from developers — which is the same as the Apple App Store charges.

In March, the Big G slashed commissions for developers earning less than $1 million annually to 15%. Notably, after a backlash in India — Google’s largest market — last year, it deferred the 30% fees for apps developed in the country until September 2021.

The new lawsuit brings shocking allegations such as Google trying to pay off Samsung to prevent it from developing a competing app store.

Politico noted that while “Google allows other app stores, the search giant has taken steps to ensure that none of them gain traction, the complaint says. For example, it refuses to allow other app stores to be downloaded from its Google Play Store, which comes preinstalled on all Android smartphones. It also refuses to let other app stores buy advertising on its search engine or popular video streaming platform YouTube.”

Last August, Epic had also filed a similar lawsuit against the company after it kicked out the popular battle royale game Fortnite from the Play Store.

Fortnite
Fortnite

This is not the first time US states have collaborated to fight against Google. In September 2019, 50 states banded together to launch investigations into the firm’s monopolistic behavior in various businesses such as Search and Android. Last year, 35 states filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging the company of anti-competitive practices in search and search ads.

Google’s wrote a blog post in response to last night’s lawsuit that says the case is strange, as Android is a free operating system that allows multiple app stores to exist:

So it’s strange that a group of state attorneys general chose to file a lawsuit attacking a system that provides more openness and choice than others. This complaint mimics a similarly meritless lawsuit filed by the large app developer Epic Games, which has benefitted from Android’s openness by distributing its Fortnite app outside of Google Play.

The company also said that users are free to sideload apps. Plus, it argued that its commission rates are similar to other app stores on the market. Google lashed out at the lawsuit saying it’s about “boosting a handful of major app developers who want the benefits of Google Play without paying for it.”
You can read the full text of the lawsuit here.

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