Attorneys general in 36 states and the District of Columbia sued Alphabet Inc.’s Google late Wednesday, claiming violations of antitrust law.
The lawsuit, first reported by Bloomberg News, builds on complaints from app developers about how Google uses its app store, known as the Play Store, on Android mobile devices. Epic Games Inc., which took Apple Inc.
to court for how the iPhone maker runs its App Store, also sued Google
in federal court in Northern California last year, accusing it of imposing anticompetitive app-store rules. That suit is expected to go to trial in 2022. (A decision in the Epic-Apple case is expected this summer.)
The newest complaint centers on Google’s requirement that some apps use the company’s payment tools to sell subscriptions and content and pay Google as much as 30% of sales. This has led app makers Spotify Technology SA
and Match Group Inc.
to accuse Google, as well as Apple, of being anticompetitive in demanding mandatory revenue sharing.
“To collect and maintain this extravagant commission, Google has employed
anticompetitive tactics to diminish and disincentivize competition in Android app distribution,” according to the complaint, filed in federal court in Northern California. The site listed defendants as Google, Alphabet, and subsidiaries in Ireland and Asia.
“Google did not stop at excluding potential threats to its app distribution monopoly
and extracting monopoly rents for app distribution. Google also ensured it could continue to reap windfall commissions from apps after the Google Play Store distributed them to consumers — often months or even years later,” the 144-page suit asserts.
In a blog post late Wednesday, Wilson White, Google’s senior director of public policy, said it was “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 already faces a raft of antitrust litigation: A federal lawsuit brought by the Justice Department last year and two related antitrust cases from separate groups of attorneys general. One is focused on Google’s alleged efforts to extend its dominance in search to newer markets like voice assistants; the other is looking into advertising.