36 AGs File Antitrust Suit Against Google Over Play Store

Attorneys General from three dozen states slapped Google, and its parent Alphabet Inc., with an antitrust suit in California federal court Wednesday, alleging seven claims of violations to the Sherman Act and numerous state claims, marking the first high-profile suit focused on the Google Play app store.

Google PlayPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

The states argued in the redacted, 144-page complaint that Google makes it difficult for users to purchase apps without using its store and blocks competing app stores from its marketplace while preventing them from advertising on Google properties.

The states also allege Google forces its app store users to go through Google Play Billing to make all in-app purchases, collecting up to 30% of the cash from those transactions.

The complaint claims that through their anti-competitive tactics, Google has pulled in more than 90% of all Android app distribution via the Play store, focusing its efforts on Samsung– the largest Android device manufacturer in the country.

“Google has taken the extraordinary step of attempting to buy off Samsung to limit competition from the Samsung Galaxy app store by, among other things, offering incentives for Samsung to turn the Galaxy store into a mere ‘white label’ for the Google Play Store — meaning that Samsung would use the backend services of the Google Play Store, including Google Play Billing, while retaining its Samsung Galaxy Store branding,” the suit states.

Lastly the suit alleges Google’s strategy involves courting the largest app developers with an incentive program aimed at keeping them from starting their own app stores or moving to a competing store.

The effects of all of these actions? The states say consumers are harmed by the lack of benefits that would be provided were the market truly competitive.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta sharply criticized Google for limiting consumer choice while charging “outrageous” fees.

“This anti-competitive behavior also stings consumers by limiting their options. A more competitive app marketplace could open innovation, leading to more choice, better payment processing, improved customer service, and enhanced data security,” he said.

Wilson White, senior director of public policy for the tech giant, wrote in a statement, “It’s strange that a group of state attorneys general chose to file a lawsuit attacking a system that provides more openness and choice than others.”

The complete list of states filing are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

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