Google takes a major hit as Epic wins in antitrust court showdown

The Google Logo in Black and White under a sepia shade
(Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The San Francisco jury unanimously agreed that Google has a monopoly in app distribution on Android phones and violated competition laws in running its app store.
  • The judge is set to rule in January on the changes Google must make to comply with the law following the antitrust lawsuit.
  • Google plans to appeal the verdict, setting the stage for a potentially lengthy legal battle.

A jury unanimously found Google's mobile app store, Google Play, to be an illegal monopoly, marking a major victory for Epic Games and potentially opening up the Android ecosystem to greater competition.

The verdict caps off a month-long trial, and it's just the latest chapter in a battle that's been brewing since 2020. This clash began when Google and Apple kicked Fortnite off their app stores because Epic dared to offer its own payment system instead of sharing profits with the tech giants.

On Monday, the jury answered yes to all 11 questions presented, including whether Google controls Android app distribution, violates competition laws through its app store practices, and uses unfair deals to stifle competition (via The Verge).

Epic Games had claimed Google was playing hardball by preventing smartphone makers, carriers, and app developers from challenging the Play Store's dominance, which is responsible for more than 95% of Android downloads in the United States. Google defended itself, insisting its goal was to offer a secure and appealing user experience, especially with competition from Apple.

Two years ago, Epic didn't catch a break in a similar case against Apple. In Epic v. Apple, a judge in California ordered just one tweak to Apple's App Store practices, deeming most of Epic's anticompetitive claims justified as Apple needed to recover its app marketplace investment.

In Epic v. Google, the former just won round one, but the fight for app store freedom isn't over yet. Come January, Judge James Donato will announce the specific actions Google needs to take based on the jury's decision, and it could mean big changes for how we download apps on Android.

This verdict could shake up the app store game, handing app developers much more control over how they distribute and monetize their apps.

In a blog post, Epic Games labeled the verdict as a victory for app developers and users globally. "It proves that Google's app store practices are illegal and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition and reduce innovation," the company stated.

Epic added that this trial uncovered some shady deals, claiming Google was paying developers billions of dollars to forget about building their own stores and stay in the Play Store family. And that's not all; Google was also allegedly cozying up to device makers with sweet deals, all to keep competing app stores out of the game.

Meanwhile, Google executive Wilson White said in a statement that the company plans to appeal the verdict. White insists that the Play Store is actually the freest and most open option out there. Google argues that it competes fiercely with Apple, and it's sticking by its Android model.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer & Reviewer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.

  • fuzzylumpkin
    So Google has a monopoly on app distribution on Android, but Apple doesn't on iOS?

    I really can't put my finger on how my faith in humanity was lost...