Epic Games and Match Group now have a court date for their antitrust case against Google. A Northern District of California judge has set the start of a jury trial for November 6th. Both Epic and Match accuse Google of abusing its control of Android app distribution through the Play Store by establishing unfair fees and requirements for in-app purchases. This comes alongside a lawsuit from 39 attorneys general as well as a customer class action suit demanding $4.7 billion in damages.
Epic sued Google in 2020 after the Android creator kicked Fortnite out of the Play Store for letting customers use an alternative in-app payment system. Match sued Google last year over the “exorbitant” store fee. Epic and Match consolidated their case and filed a motion last fall to expand their allegations, accusing Google of further antitrust violations by paying major developers hundreds of millions of dollars to keep their apps in the Play Store.
Unlike Epic’s partially successful lawsuit against Apple, this case has to acknowledge that customers do have a choice. Where Apple requires that all regular app downloads go through the App Store, Android’s sideloading option lets customers install software without downloading it from Google. The issue, as you might imagine, is that those apps are both harder to install and less likely to be noticed when the Play Store is included by default on many Android phones.
Google denies misusing its power, and argues that the fees are necessary to maintain and invest in the Play Store. It maintains that the incentive program does not prohibit developers from launching third-party stores, and that its portal competes fairly. In December, Google called on the court to deny the expanded requests over timing and other issues.
Google has made some concessions, including a test program for Play Store billing alternatives. That pilot still gives Google a cut of each transaction, though, and it remains to be seen if moves like that will satisfy the court and regulators. As it is, the internet pioneer is facing a raft of other antitrust cases that include a Justice Department lawsuit from 2020. Even if Google prevails against Epic and Match, it may not escape unscathed.
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