Class action lawsuit claims it’s Google’s fault Android phones are so expensive

May 2, 2014
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Google illegally monopolized, and financially and creatively stagnated the American market of internet and mobile search, or so says Hagens Berman in a class-action anti-trust lawsuit filed in California on May 1st. The nationwide suit alleges that Google rose to the top of search because it forced its own products on mobile users after the purchase of the Android operating system. The lawsuit seeks damages for individuals who have purchased artificially high priced devices due to Google’s alleged price-fixing, anti-competitive restrictions.

Hagens Berman is a national plaintiff-focused law firm, with suits and other actions taken against GM, the NCAA, CytRx Corporation, MagnaChip Semiconductor Corporation and more – and those are all just announcements on the homepage of their website.

The basis of this lawsuit states that Google has gained a monopoly in search by forcing all Android device manufacturers to use Google apps, including Search, on their devices. The complaint claims that if device manufacturers were free to choose the default search engine, the overall quality of internet search would be improved and manufacturers could offer lower prices for their devices.

Some respected tech writers have torn this entire lawsuit apart using words such as unproven, ludicrous and laughably ill-informed. We agree in many regards. Firstly, Google was top dog in search well before it acquired Android OS, which, in itself, was many years before Android became the dominant mobile operating system in the United States. Thus, claims that Google’s search success was a direct result of Android sales is a little bit ludicrous.

Google Search Update

The lawsuit is correct that if another search engine replaced Google as the default search provider on Android, they would likely see an increase in traffic, but this is certainly unproven. In-fact, back in 2011, the Samsung Galaxy S on Verizon, also known as the Galaxy Fascinate, used Bing as its default search. In 2010, the Motorola Backflip used Yahoo search, and if we venture away from smartphones, the Kindle Fire tablet has spent some time using Bing as well. These devices may not serve as examples with high market penetration, which may actually be my point, but they are certainly a reminder that Android can operate without Google’s Search.

It will be interesting to watch how this lawsuit plays through, Google’s forced inclusion of its services have been under fire in the past, but a nation-wide class-action suit may be a little much to get a couple bucks for an HTC EVO 3D owner in Kentucky and a Samsung Galaxy S3 owner in Iowa.

Do you think Hagens Berman has a leg to stand on, or is AOSP related, open and free enough to invalidate the accusations?

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