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July 17, 2024

Google Dealt Major Blow As Jury Finds Play Store Illegally Monopolized App Market

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Dec 13, 2023

A federal jury ruled on Monday that Google illegally abused its monopoly power over the market for Android apps. The verdict is a huge win for Epic Games, maker of the popular game Fortnite, which sued Google in 2020 alleging anticompetitive conduct with its Play Store policies.

The unanimous decision found that Google used anti-competitive tactics to unlawfully monopolize the Android app distribution and in-app payment processing markets. This ruling threatens the fundamental business model of Google’s Play Store and app ecosystem, which generates billions in revenue for the company.

Key Takeaways From The Epic V. Google Ruling

Key Issue Ruling Implications
Google Play Store market monopoly Jury unanimously agreed Google illegally monopolized distribution of Android apps Opens door to alternative app stores and payment systems damaging Google’s commissions
Anti-competitive conduct Google prevented sideloading apps and used deals to discourage competition with Play Store Finds parts of Google’s Play Store policies violate antitrust law
Impact on developers Big win for Epic Games and app makers strained by Google’s fees and control Could enable more developer-friendly monetization models on Android
Wider tech regulation First major setback for Big Tech’s app stores adding momentum to antitrust reform Likely influences pending legislation targeting app store dominance

Epic Games Claims Resounding Victory Against Tech Giant

The verdict is being hailed as “a huge victory for consumers and developers” by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. Epic first sued Google over its app store policies after Fortnite was removed from the Play Store in 2020 when Epic introduced its own in-app purchase system.

Google had cited violations of its Play Store guidelines requiring the use of Google’s own billing system. Epic claimed this policy was monopolistic and exploitative given the Play Store’s dominance as the primary way users install apps on Android.

On Monday, the jury overwhelmingly sided with Epic, finding Google guilty of using anti-competitive practices to unlawfully maintain an app distribution monopoly. Specifically, they found Google’s restrictions on sideloading apps outside its Play Store, along with certain business deals, served to illegally edge out competition.

This verdict threatens the billions in commissions Google makes from its 30% cut of app sales and in-app purchases made through Android’s Play Store. The outcome also boosts momentum for pending antitrust legislation targeting Apple and Google’s app stores.

Years-Long Legal Battle Culminates in Rare Big Tech Court Defeat

Epic’s lawsuit against Google has its origins in a similar August 2020 case also targeting Apple over its iOS App Store policies. Epic intentionally breached the terms of both companies’ app stores by introducing direct Fortnite payments, prompting the bans that led to each lawsuit.

The cases centered on the companies’ rules requiring in-app purchases to exclusively use their own payment systems from which they take lucrative commissions. Epic claimed these policies were monopolistic and coercive for app makers.

Though the suit against Apple last year ended in a mixed ruling not declaring the iOS App Store a monopoly, Monday’s clear-cut verdict that Google illegally monopolized Android app distribution marks a major blow to Big Tech’s app ecosystem control.

Experts say Google faces years of additional court battles to determine remedies and damages, which could run into the billions. The Justice Department is also now likely to escalate its own antitrust investigation into Google’s Play Store in light of the trial’s outcome.

Developers Celebrate Watershed Moment For App Economy Freedom

For Epic and the wider developer community, the victory also crowns years of advocacy seeking to break Big Tech’s grip on mobile app marketplaces. Developers have increasingly strained under Apple and Google’s 15-30% commissions and strict compliance burdens, which Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney calls a “tax on innovation.”

With experts expecting appeals to drag on, tangible impacts could be gradual. However, the precedent set by legally deeming Android’s Play Store a monopoly abuse lays groundwork for potential alternative stores, sideloading, in-app payment systems, and business models. It hands momentum to developers in determining their own digital futures relatively free from Google’s control.

“This is an historic victory for mobile app developers and consumers who rely on mobile devices and have been overcharged because of Google’s anti-competitive conduct,” cheered Matt Schruers, president of tech trade association CCIA. “The verdict also highlights the ongoing need for legislative reforms to rein in anticompetitive gatekeeping across the digital economy.”

What Happens Next? Google Appeals As Lawmakers Circle

Being found to illegally monopolize markets central to its business model marks a dramatic setback Google will vigorously contest rather than accept reforms. The company is widely expected to appeal the damning verdict.

Any material changes allowing more developer choice still likely remain distant. Google will argue enforcing the verdict immediately would “break” Android’s app ecosystem design before appeals wrap up years down the line.

Nonetheless, the win for Epic provides ammunition to US lawmakers currently considering legislation specifically targeting Apple and Google’s app store dominance. Bills like the Open App Markets Act would force changes like allowing alternative payment systems which developers have demanded.

While Google attempts to undo the court decision, its hand now appears forced to negotiate reforms long opposed either way under intensifying legal and regulatory pressure on multiple fronts. After years battling Big Tech critics like Epic CEO Sweeney, the tech giant now faces a reckoning over the Play Store policies at the heart of its mobile ecosystem.

One way or another after Monday’s verdict, the lucrative app economy Google controls faces disruption as developers regain choices long denied under its unlawful monopoly.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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