What just happened? Google is facing its fourth antitrust lawsuit brought by the US government in a year after attorneys general from 36 states and one district sued the company over anti-competitive practices related to the Play Store. In response, Google says the suit is meritless as Android allows apps to be downloaded from rival stores or directly from a developer’s website, unlike iOS.
Google has been slammed with antitrust lawsuits from both the US government and in Europe in recent times. The latest, filed Wednesday, alleges that Google makes it difficult for app developers to distribute their Android apps anywhere other than its Play Store. This ensures Google receives its 30% commission on app purchases. Devs also say they are forced to use the Play Store because Google has “targeted potentially competing app stores.”
Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Google has or has tried to secure agreements with handset makers like Samsung and network operators such as Verizon to preload its apps on their devices and to not open their own competing app stores. It also alleges Google tries to keep users away from other stores by warning them they may contain malware—not that the Play Store is free of such things.
“Once again, we are seeing Google use its dominance to illegally quash competition and profit to the tune of billions,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Through its illegal conduct, the company has ensured that hundreds of millions of Android users turn to Google, and only Google, for the millions of applications they may choose to download to their phones and tablets. Worse yet, Google is squeezing the lifeblood out of millions of small businesses that are only seeking to compete. We are filing this lawsuit to end Google’s illegal monopoly power and finally give voice to millions of consumers and business owners.”
Google posted a response stating the ability to sideload apps and the fact that many Android devices ship with two or more app stores preloaded makes the suit meritless. “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. We don’t impose the same restrictions as other mobile operating systems do.”
“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.”
Google also notes that Android devices such as the Amazon Fire tablet come preloaded with a competitive app store and no Google Play Store.
“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,” Google concluded. “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.”