Monday, July 12, 2021

States v. Google Play Store

Jon Porter (Hacker, News, MacRumors):

Google used anticompetitive practices in an attempt to “preemptively quash” Samsung’s Galaxy Store, and prevent it from becoming a viable competitor to its own Play Store. That’s according to an antitrust lawsuit filed by a coalition of three dozen state attorney general, which accuses Google of illegally attempting to control app distribution on Android. The suit also alleges Google paid off app developers to stop them circumventing its store.

The allegations challenge one of Google’s core defenses of its policies, which is that unlike Apple’s iOS rules, Android allows both competing app stores and side-loading apps directly. The lawsuit is effectively claiming that this openness is a facade, because while customers technically have the choice of where to get their apps from, Google’s business practices have prevented a viable app store competitor from emerging.

Makena Kelly and Russell Brandom:

The lawsuit, filed by 36 states and Washington, DC, in California federal court, challenges Google’s policy forcing Google Play app developers to pay a 30 percent commission fee on sales made through the app. Google recently expanded the fees to cover more digital goods purchased on the Play Store, taking particular aim at a number of prominent apps that had previously been able to sidestep the tax. The full complaint, which you can view here or at the bottom of this article, lists the defendants as Google, Alphabet, and subsidiaries in Ireland and Asia.

Dieter Bohn:

Pre-installing apps and not allowing companies or users to delete them is a classic carrier move.

Later this year, streaming apps will have to offer Google in-app purchases. If they don’t, they’re disallowed from even hinting that there are other ways to subscribe outside the Play Store.

Just like on iOS.

Florian Mueller:

The fact that Epic’s and the class-action plaintiffs’ complaints are going to be amended, while 36 states take action as well (and in the same district, the Northern District of California), makes it likely that Judge Donato will consolidate all of those cases pretty soon. And then Google will have to take on not only Epic Games and the class-action plaintiffs but also 36 states at the motion-to-dismiss stage.


The damage that Google has been doing and continues to do to customer choice, competition, and innovation with its Google Play terms and policies becomes clearer and clearer. For example, the state AGs note that Google even tried to bully Samsung into giving up its Galaxy Store in the sense of just allowing Samsung to let it look like a Galaxy Store, while actually letting Google run it all (including in-app payments, of course). If Samsung had agreed to that “white-label” approach, Samsung’s customers wouldn’t have access to Fortnite now after Google threw it out of the Google Play Store last summer.

Dieter Bohn:

Here’s Google’s initial response to the lawsuit in blogpost form. It’s a classic in the “we are confused this is so strange why is anybody mad?” genre


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