A jury has recently decided that Google has turned Google Play (its app store) and Google Play Billing service into an illegal monopoly. For a bit of backstory, if you aren’t someone who keeps up with this stuff, this drama can be traced all the way back to around 2020 when Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, began a long legal battle with Google with regard to Android app distribution and in-app billing. There’s been a lot of back and forth with the various cases, but this week, Epic Games is getting a major win.
Put before the jury were three questions and here’s the paraphrased versions. Does Google have monopoly power in the Android app distribution market and in-app billing services? Did Google perform anticompetitive acts in these markets? And lastly, was Epic Games damaged by said behavior? A jury said “yes” to all three.
With the jury’s decision that Google has a monopoly, it will be up to the Judge James Donato to determine how this issue is best remedied. Interestingly, it’s not damages that Epic Games sued for. Instead, Epic wants the court to force Google to inform every app developer that they have the autonomy to make and distribute their own app stores and billing systems onto Android. There’s no telling yet how the judge will decide and both Google and Epic Games will meet early next year to begin discussions.
In a blog published this week, Epic Games states that, “Today’s verdict is a win for all app developers and consumers around the world. It proves that Google’s app store practices are illegal and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition and reduce innovation.”
Naturally, Google has its own take on things. In a statement via Wilson White, VP of Government Affairs & Public Policy at Google, the company says, “We plan to challenge the verdict. Android and Google Play provide more choice and openness than any other major mobile platform. The trial made clear that we compete fiercely with Apple and its App Store, as well as app stores on Android devices and gaming consoles. We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem.”
For us users, none of this means much quite yet. Maybe down the road we’ll see something different, like how apps are allowed to get paid without having to give a cut to Google, but for now, nothing is changing. The legal system takes a lot of time.
// The Verge