Google is reportedly facing a new civil antitrust suit following a Play Store investigation by several US states.
The suit – which may be filed as early as next week and is being led by Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New York – is believed to focus on the Chocolate Factory's requirement that all apps distributed through its marketplace use Google's own payment tools, which take a 30 per cent commission.
Work on the suit is said to have commenced last year and is likely to be filed in North Carolina, which has served as the venue for multiple app store disputes in recent months. These include, ironically, a suit filed by Epic Games against Google.
Although Google has some similar policies to Apple in terms of the limitations it imposes on how developers can charge for digital content, it has also allowed the use and distribution of parallel and alternative app stores, like the Huawei App Gallery and Amazon App Store.
And, unlike Apple, it has permitted users to manually install software — known as sideloading — from beyond the confines of the Play Store. Apple CEO Tim Cook is notably not a fan of this practice, recently implying it wasn't in the best interests of users, and has contributed to a proliferation of malicious software on Android.
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Google has repeatedly pointed to these factors in distinguishing itself from Apple, with Google often wheeling out the argument that most Android phones provide at least two app stores. This is true however none have the same level of variety as the Play Store.
In practice, this has meant that developers hoping to expose their wares to end users must agree to the rules of the Google Play Store, which include limitations on payment methods and the aforementioned 30 per cent cut on app sales and digital content.
The Register has asked Google to comment.
Google, alongside Apple, is currently the subject of a study by the Competition and Markets Authority. The UK competition watchdog aims to determine whether anti-competitive practices are employed across the various mobile ecosystems.
If it identifies specific deficiencies, it will advise lawmakers on potential remedies, and may opt to conduct a formal and potentially more consequential investigation of its own.
In 2018, Google was fined €4.34bn by the European Commission, which found that it had used its dominance in mobile operating systems to entrench its own search product, at the expense of other competing providers.
Google faces a further investigation into its dominance of the adtech space. The investigation, which opened yesterday, aims to determine whether, by favouring its own advertising technology platforms, Google has disadvantaged competitors in violation of EU law. ®