According to Bloomberg, a group of state attorneys general filed a new antitrust case against Google on Wednesday, accusing the search engine of abusing its power over the Android app store.
The action, filed in federal court in California by 36 states and the District of Columbia, challenges Google’s policy requiring Google Play app creators to pay a 30% commission charge on sales made through the app. Google recently increased the costs to encompass additional digital items purchased on the Play Store, specifically targeting a handful of popular apps that had previously been exempt from the tax.
The defendants are Google, Alphabet, and subsidiaries in Ireland and Asia, according to the full lawsuit, which you can read here or at the bottom of this post.
In response to the case, Google stated on its blog, “It’s interesting that a group of state attorneys general opted to launch a lawsuit targeting a system that gives more openness and choice than others.” “This action is similar to one filed by Epic Games, a prominent app developer that has taken advantage of Android’s openness by releasing its Fortnite app outside of Google Play.”
Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, filed a similar lawsuit against Google in August, alleging that the company’s policies had hiked prices for consumers online, though the case was mostly overshadowed by Epic’s parallel case against Apple and its App Store. Nonetheless, because it comes from authorized state-level authorities, the case filed by the state attorneys general is expected to have more clout.
The action comes amid growing federal pressure on Google, which is already facing three antitrust lawsuits, including a Justice Department case accusing the corporation of monopolistic behavior in search advertising.
Because Android does not require Google Play as the exclusive source of software on the phone, it has always been viewed as posing a lower antitrust risk than Apple’s iOS. However, as Apple faces increasing criticism, many features of the Play Store’s cost structure have been called into doubt.
Legislators and regulators have questioned Apple and Google’s ability to make their app stores the defaults on mobile devices, a practice that often extends to specific apps, in recent hearings. Google recently joined Apple in decreasing its charge for smaller developers to 15%, a move largely interpreted as a response to rising public criticism.