Dozens of state attorneys are generally considering filing a third antitrust complaint against Google early next year, two people said near the probe on Monday – this time over the app store.
Two coalitions of states filed antitrust lawsuits against Google last week: one led by Texas, focusing on the technology giant’s control of the advertising technology market, and another led by Colorado and Nebraska, targeting its power in online search. The other group is still investigating complaints related to Google’s control of the Android Play Store and may file a lawsuit as early as January, people said.
The multistate group focusing on Google search had considered including the Play Store allegations in that suit, but chose it for fear of complicating the search, the people said, speaking anonymously to discuss an ongoing investigation.
The states leading the effort include Utah, New York, Tennessee and North Carolina, a group of two Republicans and two Democrats.
Bloomberg first reported the news of a potential Play Store suit on Friday.
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Google’s control of the Play Store has attracted criticism and private lawsuits, most notably one filed by Fortnite producer Epic Games, which is based in North Carolina. The Google Play Store is pre-installed on almost all Android devices, but the company allows users to download multiple app stores, such as those offered by Amazon or Samsung. Users of most devices can also install apps that are downloaded directly from the Internet, often called “sideloading”.
Sameer Samat, Google’s vice president of Android and Google Play, said that most Android devices have two app stores pre-installed, and users can easily add others.
“Each store is able to determine its own business model and consumer features,” Samat said in a statement. “This transparency means that even if a developer and Google do not agree on business terms, the developer can still distribute on the Android platform.”
Because of the options, Google’s handling of the Play Store is often seen as less problematic for antitrust purposes than Apple’s ironclad control over the App Store, the only permitted way for iPhone and iPad users to acquire and install apps.
In August, Epic filed twin lawsuits against Apple and Google over app store restrictions. Other developers and consumers have also filed lawsuits. These cases continue in federal court in California.
Both Apple and Google charge 30 percent commission for app downloads or in-app purchases, a fee that developers say is too high. In the past, Google has been reluctant to require developers to follow the guidelines for in-app purchases, but in September the company said it would begin enforcing the rules more forcefully in 2021.