Even while the row between Apple and Epic Games remains unresolved, the other big app store will soon get its time under the legal spotlight. It’s really no surprise that Google would eventually be the target of an antitrust lawsuit but the bigger question is if it will be able to stick. As many as 36 states in the US have finally filed a complaint alleging that Google used its position to impose a 30% tax from developers on Google Play Store.
The 30% cut that app store owners get has been the subject of much controversy and even legal actions for the past years, but things didn’t come to a head until Epic Games made its bold move to try and bypass those fees for Fortnite in-app purchases. That set off a chain of events that ended up with Apple and the gaming giant in court. It may have also nudged other digital content store owners to adjust their fees or offer other incentives to pacify developers and regulators.
Google hasn’t exactly changed its tune, although it did start a new tier for developers earning less than $1 million per year. Google Play Store still retains a 30% cut for app and in-app purchases, and a new lawsuit puts that business practice in a slightly different light.
According to the complaint, Google used its position and resources to pay off manufacturers like Samsung from developing a competing app store. It allegedly also paid developers to discourage them from distributing their Android app anywhere else other than Google Play Store. This situation led to conflated prices for consumers buying apps, according to the state attorneys general.
One critical difference between Apple’s situation and Google’s is that Google Play Store isn’t the only app store available. The presence of Amazon’s Appstore and Samsung’s own Galaxy Store, and the ability to sideload apps on Android could weaken the states’ case a bit. That said, it doesn’t clear Google of anti-competitive practices that could still leave competing app stores at a disadvantage.