Google begs court for relief from Epic Games' Play Store demands

$137M needed to overhaul Play Store too great to bear, Google argues. Oh, and user security is important, too

Google has asked a California judge to deny Epic Games' requested remedies after the Play Store was found to be an illegal monopoly, arguing the changes would be too costly and create new security risks for Android users. 

The Chocolate Factory filed a briefing [PDF] objecting to Epic's demands on Monday, arguing that its internal estimate of up to $137 million to implement catalog access, library porting and distribution of third-party app stores, plus ongoing charges to keep the whole thing running, was simply too much to bear.

"These estimates reflect the technical and review costs to Google," the company says in the filing. "They do not include the incalculable costs that Google would suffer from the harms to the Google and Play brands or to the security and viability of the Android ecosystem caused by these remedies." 

Google reported a net income of $23.7 billion in the first quarter of 2024.

Google's objections revolve around three requests from Epic: First, providing third-party app stores with access to Google Play's catalog of apps not available on their stores for easier linking back to Google Play, which Google says gives third-party app stores a free ride to benefit from Google's own app catalog. Google said this would also require it to create a new method of sharing metadata with third-party stores, which it believes would harm user security. 

Second, Google doesn't want to support library porting that would allow Android users to change ownership for apps installed via Google Play to the same app available from a third-party store. Google says Android 14 already "largely address the goal of the library porting remedy" and as such additional measures aren't necessary. 

Third, Google doesn't want to comply with Epic's request that Google Play be required to distribute third-party app stores because "the Play Store as it exists today is designed to distribute apps, not app stores." Modifying it to do so would be costly, and also pose a security risk to users, Google argues. 

The Android maker is asking for more time to file an additional briefing on other potential legal issues of Epic's request, which the judge has yet to issue a decision on. 

The Epic saga continues

It's been six months since a California jury decided that Google Play was an illegal monopoly, but that verdict hasn't settled matters. 

Epic and Google have been in and out of court in the months following the verdict to hammer out terms of agreement on the injunction Epic proposed in April, and the court's decision [PDF] to have Google file the aforementioned briefing followed a discussion between "economic experts" in May, during which Judge James Donato reportedly expressed skepticism of Google's Play Store apocalypse claims. 

"Google has a history of malicious compliance and has attempted to circumvent legislation and regulation meant to reign in their anti-competitive control over Android devices," Epic said of its demands of the search behemoth. "Our proposed injunction seeks to block Google from repeating past bad-faith tactics and open up Android devices to competition and choice for all developers and consumers."

Epic has until July 24 to respond to Google. The Fortnite maker declined to comment on the matter, and Google hasn't responded to questions. 

Epic's other big app store antitrust case against Apple, decided in 2021, isn't over yet either.

The games developer mostly lost its case against Apple, though US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the Northern District of California did decide in Epic Games's favor that Apple could no longer stop developers from linking to outside payment sources for in-app purchases. The decision was passively upheld by the Supreme Court last August.

Yet the fight still hasn't ended, and the pair were back in court recently for a discovery hearing to determine whether Apple has complied with the injunction issued in the case. 

According to court documents [PDF] filed last week, the May 8 hearing "exposed serious gaps in Apple's narrative of compliance," and additional documents the court asked Apple to hand over "did not comply with the Court's orders." 

Apple and Epic were back in court yesterday to discuss the matter, records for which are not yet available. ®

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