Google app store faces lawsuit from 36 states and Washington
- Attorneys general for 36 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit targeting Google Play and its cut of app revenues
- The complaint echoes similar arguments made against Apple, but it marks the fourth major antitrust suit filed against Google since October
Dozens of states are taking aim at Google in an escalating legal offensive on Big Tech.
This time, attorneys general for 36 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit targeting Google’s Play store, where consumers download apps designed for the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones.
The 144-page complaint filed late Wednesday in a Northern California federal court represents the fourth major antitrust filed against Google by government agencies across the US since last October.
Just as Epic did, the states’ lawsuit focuses primarily on the control Google exerts on its app store so it can collect commissions of up to 30 per cent on digital transactions within apps installed on smartphones running on Android. Those devices represent more than 80 per cent of the worldwide smartphone market.
Although its app commissions are similar to Apple’s, Google has tried to distinguish itself by allowing consumers to download apps from other places than its Play store. Apple, in contrast, doesn’t allow iPhone users to install apps from any other outlet than its store.
But the lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges Google’s claims that its Android software is an open operating system that allows consumers more choices is a sham.
The complaint contends Google has deployed various tactics and set up anticompetitive barriers to ensure it distributes more than 90 per cent of the apps on Android devices – a market share that the attorneys general argue represents an illegal monopoly. What’s more, the lawsuit alleges Google has been abusing that power to reap billions of dollars in profit at the expense of consumers who wind up paying higher prices to subsidise the commissions, and the makers of apps who have less money and incentive to innovate.
“Google’s monopoly is a menace to the marketplace,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who is leading the lawsuit along with his peers in New York, Tennessee and North Carolina. “Google Play is not fair play. Google must be held accountable for harming small businesses and consumers.”
Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for a lawsuit, but it has adamantly defended the way it runs its Play store in its response to the Epic lawsuit and in other instances.
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As the scrutiny on their app stores has intensified, both Apple and Google have been taking conciliatory steps. Most notably, both have lowered their commissions to 15 per cent on the first US$1 million in revenue collected by app makers – a reduction that covers most apps in their respective stores.
But those measures haven’t lessened the heat on any of the major tech companies, nor should they, said Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, who chairs a subcommittee that oversees antitrust issues.
“This is exactly the type of aggressive antitrust enforcement that we need to rein in the power of big tech and address America’s monopoly problem,” she said in a statement.