What you need to know
- Google faces another antitrust lawsuit, this time over Play Store policies.
- The NY AG and a coalition of state attorney generals have filed against Google, claiming it holds an illegal monopoly over mobile app distribution.
- Google is also being accused of anticompetitive practices on app store fees for developers.
New York Attorney General Letitia James co-leads a coalition of 37 state attorney generals in a new antitrust lawsuit against Google over monopolistic and anti-competitive practices. The latest effort is co-led by Utah, North Carolina, and Tennessee attorneys generals.
The suit alleges that the Google Play Store has an unfair hold over app distribution on Android and that Google discourages the use of third-party app stores. It also claims that Google puts its own apps ahead of the competition by giving them prominent placement on the best Android phones as pre-loaded apps.
James says that Google is limiting consumer choice by essentially cutting off competing app stores. "Through its illegal conduct, the company has ensured that hundreds of millions of Android users turn to Google, and only Google, for the millions of applications they may choose to download to their phones and tablets."
The lawsuit also tackles Play Store fees that are imposed on developers. Google announced that it's making its own Play Store billing system mandatory for app developers, requiring as much as 30% of all in-app transactions. The company later announced that it would only take 15% per year for the first million, but that number will increase to 30% afterward. The new policy goes into effect in September.
The complaint alleges that Google is taking advantage of its position and "unlawfully tying the use of Google's payment processor" to its app distribution store. This would potentially affect apps like Netflix that use their own billing and could potentially lead to an increase in prices.
Last year Epic Games also sued Google over Play Store fees after tension ensued with Apple over a similar matter.
The new lawsuit is only the latest against Google, which faces litigation over its search practices and ads as well as increased antitrust regulation. The case also comes just after a judge dismissed a recent lawsuit that was also co-led by James over Google's acquisition of Instagram and Facebook.
In a blog post, Google detailed how the lawsuit is "strange" when the company provides "more openness and choice than others." It added that Google Play is different than other app stores and "doesn't impose the same restrictions as other mobile operating systems do."
Wilson White, senior director of public policy at Google, said the lawsuit alleges the company doesn't provide other options other than to use Google Play, but that this is incorrect.
"Choice has always been a core tenet of Android," White wrote. "In fact, most Android devices ship with two or more app stores preloaded. And popular Android devices such as the Amazon Fire tablet come preloaded with a competitive app store and no Google Play Store. Consumers can also 'sideload' apps, meaning they can download them from a developer's website directly without going through Google Play at all."
Google noted in the blog post that the complaint also suggests that Google Play inhibits developers' ability to grow, but that this is not the case. It also noted that the lawsuit is "peppered with inflammatory language designed to distract from the fact that our rules on Android and Google Play benefit consumers."