Google is being sued by 36 state attorneys general for allegedly abusing its power over Android app developers through the Android Play Store.
The lawsuit, filed by 36 states and Washington DC in federal court in San Francisco on July 8, alleges that Google’s 30 per cent cut of revenue generated from apps sold through the company’s store amounts to a “monopoly tax” and has made it hard for competing app stores to get traction.
This latest antitrust lawsuit comes just a few months after a similar suit was filed against Play Store over its billing system and service fees.
This latest lawsuit alleges that Google’s practices are monopolistic and anti-competitive, claiming that Google has unfairly used Android to promote its own services, like YouTube, while shutting out competing apps and the average Android app developer.
In addition, they say it has prevented handset makers from using any other search engine on their devices but Google’s own service.
The company has been accused of monopolising the market by charging Android app developers high fees to distribute their apps on its store. It’s also been alleged that it uses its search engine to promote its own products over others to secure more profits.
The lawsuit alleges that Google’s practices have led to “higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products” than would otherwise exist in a competitive market because they are not subject to the same obligations as other companies under antitrust law such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix or Spotify.
Google remains unfazed by the lawsuit
In its defense, the search engine giant made a statement through Google’s Public Policy lead Wilson White outlining a raft of reasons why the allegations were scurrilous.
“This lawsuit isn’t about helping the little guy or protecting consumers. It’s about boosting a handful of major app developers who want the benefits of Google Play without paying for it. Doing so risks raising costs for small developers, impeding their ability to innovate and compete, and making apps across the Android ecosystem less secure for consumers,” the statement read.
The statement outlined user choice and said the lawsuit ignored users right to choose rather than defending it. Google also pointed to the fact they compete against both Apple and Android in the app ecosystem.
“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,” Google stated in a blog post.
This Is Not The First Time Developers Have Attempted To Sue Google
In 2020, Google and Apple were sued over the 30 per cent cut they took from game developers by Epic Games. The lawsuit said that this fee was unfair because it was high compared to what these stores charged for other apps like Facebook or Instagram.
Epic Games is the publisher of blockbuster game Fortnite and had attempted to offer a 20 per cent discount on in-game currency if gamers bought the Fortnite app directly from Epic Games, rather than the Apple or Google stores. That led to both companies removing Fortnite from their stores and resulted in Epic Games launching immediate action. A verdict is expected later this year.
Epic Games has also launched legal action in the UK, Europe and Australia, while the US Justice Department launched a suit in October over Google’s search and advertising practices. A similar case has been raised in the EU.
This latest lawsuit comes amid a broader debate about whether tech giants like Facebook and Amazon should be broken up because of their dominance in markets such as social media and online retailing.