States initiate new antitrust action against Google on Google Play
Google announced last week that 60% of its workforce would work about three days a week in the office, 20% in new offices and 20% from home.
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State attorneys general are once again attacking Google with an antitrust lawsuit, this time alleging the company has abused its power over app developers through its Android Play Store.
The case marks the fourth antitrust lawsuit filed against the company by US government authorities in the past year.
Focusing on the Play Store, the latest lawsuit touches on an aspect of Google’s business that most closely resembles Apple’s. Apple’s app store grapples with legal challenges, and lawmakers question whether it unfairly charges developers for payments made by customers through their apps and favors its own apps over rivals .
Attorneys general for 36 states and the District of Columbia, from both sides, are listed as plaintiffs in the latest case, which was filed Wednesday in the Northern District of California. The states include California, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, and North Carolina.
The plaintiffs claim that Google has used anti-competitive tactics to extract a commission from 30% of consumers, who buy subscriptions and digital content on their Android phones. App developers, they say, have no choice but to use Google’s software for distribution, in part because Google has “targeted potentially competing app stores.” Meanwhile, consumers have no options as Android is the only operating system available on many handsets.
The Google Play Store distributes more than 90% of Android apps in the United States, while no other Android store has more than 5% market share, according to the complainants. They specifically call Samsung, the leading maker of Android phones, saying Google has tried to “buy out” the company by offering incentives to turn its Galaxy app store into a “white label” for the Play Store. Google has also thwarted Amazon’s past efforts to run its own distribution store on Android.
“Google’s enduring monopoly power in the Android application distribution and in-app purchasing markets is not based on substantive competition,” the complaint states. “These monopolies are maintained by artificial technological and contractual conditions that Google imposes on the Android ecosystem.”
In addition to the latest antitrust challenge, Google faces an ongoing lawsuit from the Justice Department and several states alleging that it used exclusionary contracts to ensure the default status of its apps on devices from manufacturers that used its Android mobile operating system. He also faces legal action from a group of Republican attorneys general focused on his ad technology business and alleging he entered into an anti-competitive deal with Facebook.
The third trial before this latest challenge came from a bipartisan group of attorneys general who expanded beyond allegations of DOJ exclusion contracts. The lawsuit alleged that Google restricts vertical search providers like Yelp and Tripadvisor from being able to reach consumers by using “discriminatory behavior on its search results page”.
In the latest Android case, the plaintiffs claim that one of the ways consumers are being wronged is the lack of innovation. Google has no incentive to provide better service, and no other developer or app store has available channels to reach large numbers of people.
“Instead of just producing a better app distribution experience, Google is using anti-competitive barriers and mandates to protect its monopoly power and increase its supercompetitive revenue from the Google Play Store and Google Play billing,” the complaint states. .
The plaintiffs say they are seeking “to restore competition and prevent Google from engaging in similar behavior in the future.”
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