Epic Games and Match Group now have a court date for their antitrust case against Google. A judge in the Northern District of California set the start of a jury trial for November 6. Both Epic and Match accuse Google of abusing its control of Android app distribution through the Play Store by setting unfair fees and requirements for in-app purchases. This comes along with a lawsuit from 39 attorneys general, as well as a client class action lawsuit demanding $4.7 billion in damages.
Epic sued Google in 2020 after the Android creator kicked Fortnite outside the Play Store for allowing customers to use an alternative in-app payment system. Match sued Google last year over the store’s “exorbitant” fee. Epic and Match consolidated their case and filed a motion last fall to expand their allegations, accusing Google of further antitrust violations by paying major developers hundreds of millions of dollars to keep their apps on the Play Store.
Unlike Epic’s partially successful lawsuit against Apple, this case must recognize that customers have a choice. Where Apple requires all regular app downloads to be done through the App Store, Android’s sideloading option allows customers to install software without downloading it from Google. The problem, as you might imagine, is that those apps are harder to install and less likely to be noticed when the Play Store is included by default on many Android phones.
Google denies abusing its power and argues that the fees are necessary to maintain and invest in the Play Store. He maintains that the incentive program does not prohibit developers from launching third-party stores and that his portal competes fairly. In December, Google asked the court to deny the extended requests on time and other grounds.
Google has made some concessions, including a trial program for Play Store billing alternatives. However, that pilot still gives Google a cut of each transaction, and it remains to be seen whether moves like that will satisfy the court and regulators. As it is, the internet pioneer is facing a host of other antitrust cases including a 2020 Justice Department lawsuit. Even if Google wins against Epic and Match, it may not emerge unscathed.
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