The 37 attorneys general claim that Google forces app developers into paying exorbitant commissions to feature in its digital marketplace–a marketplace that is pre-installed on tens of millions of Android phones.
A group of 36 states, as well as the District of Columbia, has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the company abuses its power through its mobile app store.
According to The New York Times, this lawsuit represents the fourth federal- or state-level challenge to Google since last autumn. While other complaints have targeted Google’s travel features and advertising power, this is the first to explore accusations against the company’s app store.
Some mobile application developers, says the Times, have complained of Google’s aggressive practices. The company purportedly charges developers a 30% commission atop many Play Store transactions. In many cases, Google forces applications to use its Play Store to process in-program purchases.
The lawsuit makes a similar set of allegations, claiming Google has effectively “seized control” of mobile applications in its Android smartphone operating system.
“Once again, we are seeing Google use its dominance to illegally quash competition and profit to the tune of billions,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, among the leading plaintiffs in the case. “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. Worse yet, Google is squeezing the lifeblood out of millions of small businesses that are only seeking to compete. We are filing this lawsuit to end Google’s illegal monopoly power and finally give voice to millions of consumers and business owners.”
The lawsuit observes that Google’s app store dominance on Android is such that it encapsulates almost the entirety of the operating system’s market share.
“Because of Google’s anticompetitive conduct, Google Play Store’s market share—which is well over 90 percent—faces no credible threats, and market forces cannot exert pressure on its supracompetitive commissions,” the lawsuit states.
However, Google has challenged the attorneys general accusations, suggesting that its products are widely used because they are the best available option.
“Android and Google Play provide openness and choice that other platforms simply don’t,” wrote Wilson White, Google’s senior director of public policy. “This lawsuit isn’t about helping the little guy or protecting consumers. It’s about boosting a handful of major app developers who want the benefits of Google Play without paying for it.”
The lawsuit, notes the New York Times, is being led by the attorneys general of Utah, North Carolina, New York, and Tennessee. Their complaint was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California.