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TL;DR
  • More than half of US states and Washington D.C. have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google over the Play Store.
  • The suit argues that Google stifles competition, but the firm is calling the case “meritless.”
  • The new case comes just a few months after a similar suit was filed against the Play Store over its billing system and service fees.

It’s official. Google is now facing yet another antitrust lawsuit. After a recent report suggested a new suit was imminent, 36 states and Washington D.C. have now officially filed a case against the tech giant calling into question the Google Play Store’s control.

The suit draws attention to Google’s service fees garnered from developers for consumer purchases made within the Store. But Google believes the suit, instead of defending users’ choice, “ignores” it completely.

Per Politico, the states’ case argues that Google dominates the Android app ecosystem and stifles challenges from third-party stores. However, in a lengthy statement issued by Google’s Public Policy lead Wilson White, the firm claims that the suit attacks “a system that provides more openness and choice than others.”

Google’s arguments

In the statement, Google argues that it doesn’t just compete against other Android OEMs but also Apple and its App Store. The company claims that Apple is its primary competitor in terms of app store revenue.

“We compete for both developers and consumers, and if we’re not providing them with the best experience on Google Play, they have other alternatives to choose from,” Google adds.

Google also believes the Play Store “increases competition,” specifically mentioning that it’s not the only way users can install apps on Android. It mentions the ability to sideload apps on Android, the presence of other app stores baked into other OEM devices, and allowing developers to promote other app stores beyond the Play Store.

Ahead of Android 12‘s launch, the company announced plans to introduce Play Store-like functionality for third-party stores on the OS. Although it’s a move that benefits both consumers and developers, the lawsuit paints this particular decision in a new light.

Finally, Google claims the Play Store benefits both consumers and developers economically. It argues that most developers pay no service fees and those that do account for less than 3%.

The company also mentions its recent 15% service charge decrease for the first $1 million made by developers. Nevertheless, the company still takes a cut of 30% beyond this figure and plans to enforce all apps listed on the Play Store to use its billing service. This would force the likes of Netflix, Epic Games, and Tinder owner Match Group to adhere to Google’s billing system and commission figures beginning September.

The other antitrust suits

The latest antitrust suit comes after a busy few months for Google’s lawyers.

Fortnite developer Epic Games sued Google and Apple back in August 2020, presenting a similar argument against the Play Store and the App Store. Google does mention Epic Games in its statement, highlighting the similarity of the two suits and labeling both as “meritless.” Just days after Epic’s move, another suit calling out Google’s 30% commission fee was filed in California.

In October, Google was hit by a suit from the US Justice Department for its online search and advertising practices. Google’s also facing legal action in the EU over its search engine dominance in the region.

Ultimately, Google claims that the latest lawsuit brought by the states will harm the small developers and consumers they aim to protect. See its closing comment below.

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. 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.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.