State attorneys general of 36 states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Wednesday alleging the company engaged in anticompetitive practices in its Play Store for Android.
The complaint argues Google holds and unlawfully maintains a monopoly in the market of “Android app distribution,” using anticompetitive tactics such as blocking competitors from accessing the Play Store, discouraging the creation of competing app stores, and acquiring smaller app developers. The complaint also alleges Google charges app developers up to a 30% commission when customers purchase their products through the Google Play Store.
“Google has taken steps to close the ecosystem from competition and insert itself as the middleman between app developers and consumers,” the plaintiffs argue. (RELATED: Four More States Join Bipartisan Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google)
The plaintiffs claim that Google’s size and anticompetitive tactics have made it so app developers have no choice but to use Google’s software, which puts developers at the mercy of Google’s policies and fees.
“Google Play Store distributes over 90% of all Android apps in the United States. No competing Android app store has more than 5% of the market,” the complaint reads.
The complaint also argues that Google’s practices harm consumers. The plaintiffs claim the tech giant’s policy requiring all Play Store apps sell digital in-app content through Google’s billing service creates a monopoly on in-app payment processing, which the company can then abuse.
Breaking News: Utah v. Google
Utah is leading a bipartisan lawsuit against tech giant Google. The lawsuit alleges that the California-based company illegally maintains an app store monopoly that unfairly edges out competition.#google #lawsuit #utpol #monopoly pic.twitter.com/1VRsp9ZTWZ
— Utah Attorney General (@UtahAG) July 7, 2021
“Because Google’s tie prevents their use of other payment processors for in-app purchases, consumers are harmed by paying Google’s supracompetitive commission of up to 30%,” the plaintiffs say.
Google responded to the lawsuit in a statement posted on its blog, calling the complaint “meritless” and questioning the motivations of the state attorneys general.
“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,” Wilson White, Google’s Senior Director of Public Policy, wrote in the statement.
“If you don’t find the app you’re looking for in Google Play, you can choose to download the app from a rival app store or directly from a developer’s website,” White said.
Google has faced several recent antitrust complaints, both in the United States and Europe. The Department of Justice filed an antitrust complaint in October 2020 alleging similar anticompetitive practices related to the Google Play Store.
State attorneys general of 38 states sued Google in December 2020 over alleged manipulation of search results, while another December complaint led by Texas’s attorney general went after the company’s online advertising practices.
An Ohio lawsuit in June asked for a judge to declare Google a “common carrier” and therefore subject to regulation like a public utility.
The company was also fined $270 million last month by a French antitrust regulator for its anticompetitive data practices.
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