Google Faces a Reckoning Of Epic Proportions

Alphabet Inc.’s Google may face a lawsuit from a group of various state attorneys as soon as next week. According to three different sources familiar with the matter, the massive tech company may be in violation of antitrust laws with regards to how it runs its mobile app store.

The lawsuit is in response to various complaints from different app developers regarding how Google managed its Play Store for Android devices, per one source. This particular lawsuit has been planned since last year, and despite encountering a delay, it appears ready to potentially move forward again.

State attorneys general from New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah are spearheading the investigation into the tech giant.

According to two sources, the lawsuit will probably be filed in the federal court in Northern California, wherein other similar cases are being tried. One of these cases includes a lawsuit launched by Epic Games Inc. against Google in 2020, which alleged that the search engine giant has anticompetitive rules for its app store. This case is anticipated to begin in 2022.

In addition, two other class-action lawsuits have been proposed regarding the app Play store, which are to be heard by the same judge. Thus, if states wish to have a chance for participation in pre-trial activities, such as depositions, it will be important for them to file fairly quickly, according to one source.

Currently, Epic and Apple Inc. are waiting for the verdict in another similar lawsuit, whose trial ended this past month in California.

Google, however, argues that the company’s Play store is open.

According to a Google spokesperson, Android is apparently “the only major operating system that allows people to download apps from multiple app stores.”

Pointing out that Android phones typically ship with at least “two or more app stores preinstalled,” individuals also have the option to install other app stores, including apps directly from their phone’s browser, “if they so choose,” the spokesperson continued.

Originally, Google was perceived as more open in the management of its app store than Apple, but now the company has recently enhanced the enforcement of its rules.

It is likely that the law suit will focus on Google’s rule that certain apps must use the company’s payment tools in order to sell content and subscriptions, as well as provide Google with upwards of 30 percent in sales, per two sources.

Various app developers, including Spotify Technology, a live music streaming service, and Match Group, the owner of Tinder, have always asserted that Apple and Google engage in anticompetitive practices with regards to mandatory revenue sharing.

At this point in time, political debates over whether or not federal antitrust enforcement has become too lax have been unusually high, providing a strong context for the newest lawsuit. Various politicians, including Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Panel, have argued in favor of tougher antitrust enforcement.

Moreover, Google already faces another federal lawsuit initiated by the Justice Department in 2020, which is also related to other antitrust cases that have been brought forward by two different groups of attorneys general. One of the groups is led by Texas, and it is focused on advertising, whereas the other group focuses on Google’s continued aggression towards dominating newer technological markets, including voice assistants and other advancements.