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Google faces lawsuit for allegedly abusing Play Store power (Update)

States are accusing Google of misusing its fees and stifling competition.

Published onJuly 7, 2021

  • “Dozens” of states have sued Google for abusing its control of the Play Store.
  • The lawsuit focuses on fees for Android apps and subscriptions.
  • The lawsuit has been filed in California.

Update: July 8, 2021 (2:30 AM ET): It’s official. A group of 36 states, including Washington D.C., have filed a new antitrust case against Google. Read its full statement at the link.

Original article: July 7, 2021 (6 PM ET): Google might face yet another court battle over its business practices. Bloomberg sources say “dozens” of states are close to filing a lawsuit accusing Google of abusing its control of the Play Store.

The lawsuit reportedly centers on the fees Google collects from Android developers for both apps and in-app subscriptions. A lawsuit could be filed in California as soon as July 7 (today, if you’re reading in time), the sources said.

We’ve asked Google for comment.

If a lawsuit moves forward, it would add significant legal pressure to Google. The company is already dealing with antitrust action over its dominance of web searches and online advertising — now, it would have to contend with a crackdown on supposed misuse of its mobile app platform. The EU has also clamped down on Google for its Android search practices.

See also: The best third-party app stores for Android

Like Apple, Google has grappled with longstanding accusations that it takes unfair advantage of its app portal’s influence to charge excess fees such as the 30% cut it normally takes for purchases. The internet giant recently echoed Apple by cutting its share of app purchases to 15% for the first $1 million in revenue over the course of a year, theoretically helping small developers without hurting the bottom line. The move only took effect July 1, however, and might not help Google avoid a lawsuit from states that may have been prepping cases for months.

A lawsuit against Google would please at least some developers. Fortnite creator Epic Games sued Google in August 2020  for supposedly violating US antitrust law by forcing app makers to use the Play Store’s payment system in many cases. Should the states press ahead, they could force Google to loosen its grip and allow those third-party payments. A court victory could also push Google to reduce its cut for all developers, including majors like Epic.

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