U.S. States Sue Google for Play Store Abuses

Posted on July 7, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Google with 36 Comments

Image credit: Wikipedia

36 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing it of abusing its Play Store monopoly.

“Google engineered an open platform in the core of the Android OS, but later devised tying contracts, software anti-patterns, and a cartel relationship with [hardware makers] to lock Android down and block real competition,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, whose firm is also suing Google, tweeted. “It’s tragic that the ‘Don’t Be Evil’ company let it come to this.”

The suit isn’t publicly available at the time of this writing. But according to early reports, the suit centers on Google’s illegal abuse of its Play Store monopoly. As with Apple, Google is alleged to overcharge developers for purchases and subscriptions made from within mobile apps distributed through its Play Store for Android. The suit is separate from a 2020 suit, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and several U.S. states, that targets abuses related to Google’s search and advertising monopoly.

Google, like Apple before it, has tried to head off this kind of lawsuit by proactively lowering its fees by half for most smaller developers. But Google, like Apple, moved too slowly, and that kind of pricing change will only be viewed as predatory by antitrust regulators since only an entrenched monopolist could possibly afford to suddenly lower its prices that much.

Google and Apple’s mobile stores earned a collective $143 billion in revenues in 2020, a jump of 20 percent from the previous year. The two firms have a mobile app duopoly in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

The European Commission and the U.K. are both investigating Google for various antitrust issues as well.

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Comments (36)

36 responses to “U.S. States Sue Google for Play Store Abuses”

  1. curtisspendlove

    This is not going to turn out rosy for anyone.


    Both Google and Apple will be looking for alternative ways to recoup any service revenue lost through these regulations.


    and it’s not going to be pretty.

    • jdawgnoonan

      Well, as a friend of mine says, F'em.

    • nbplopes

      Curtis, I believe people should never be afraid to fight for the right thing.


      These companies are attempting to fence the Internet ecossystem for themselves buy building a gated business layer on top of it of gigantic proportions. They are doing it through tech . The Internet, a thing that has been at the center, at the base of absolutely incredible ventures and successes … including both of these companies.


      I don’t think that they have set out to do this. Yet, I’m sure many brilliant minds, I mean sincerely, in these teams have seen the opportunity and are trying to cease it.


      Cheers.

  2. locust_infested_orchard_inc.

    It's high time that an antitrust lawsuit is being filed against Adoogle.


    Go on, sue the bar stirred.

  3. John Craig

    About time. Honestly, at what wheel were the government regulators sound asleep when big tech firms decided to screw every other small tech firm?


    Why were we all OK with big tech not being regulated? Banks are regulated. Manufacturing is regulated. Education, retail, medicine, etc, etc are all regulated.


    I hope that the worlds collective governments absolutely screw Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook for unfair, anti-competitive, monopolistic practices, environmental impact, and God-awful tax avoidance practices to boot.


    A significant and extremely painful kick to their bloated asses is long overdue

    • Chris_Kez

      I agree more needs to be done, but anyone who follows any of the industries you just mentioned could probably enumerate a long list of all the ways in which "regulation" is woefully inadequate if not downright pernicious. The highly regulated banking industry brings us one scandalous disaster after another while funneling profits from everyone at the bottom to a select few people at the top. The highly regulated healthcare industry brings us the highest costs for mediocre results. There is consolidation in every industry, and in tech it is actually fairly easy for consumers to choose a different option, which makes this a difficult area to assess.

      tl;dr be careful what you wish for

      • Greg Green

        The banks helped write the Banks Too Big To Fail laws, giving themselves bailouts. Pharma helped write Obamacare giving themselves bailouts. Corporate farms continue to get bailouts designed for smaller farms. It’s all a mess and the only guarantee is it’ll get messier.

  4. retcable

    If you don't like iPhones, you are perfectly free to buy an Android device. If you don't like Android, you are perfectly free to buy an iPhone. You are NOT forced to buy either one, you have a choice, neither is a monopoly in the cellular arena. All the carriers are not requiring anyone to only buy Android or Apple devices to use on their network. If all cellular customers were only allowed to use one or the other on all networks, that would be a monopoly. No monopoly exists right now.


    The very idea that either Apple or any Android device maker must be required to sell devices with only an OS installed and no other software, requiring the user to install every single piece of software they want to use on that device after searching through some theoretical "app store" not controlled by anyone and stocked with apps that have not been vetted at all for security and identity theft risks is preposterous, yet that is what it seems these people doing all the suing seem to want.

    • curtisspendlove

      People seem to keep forgetting that Epic themselves did an *excellent* job proving how a third party App Store can compromise millions of phones with poor security code during Fortnite updates.


      It’s be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.

      • nbplopes

        This is not about Epic.

        • curtisspendlove

          No, but it could be about third party app stores.

          • nbplopes

            Well it could but I think it is not either. Neither it is about App Store in general.


            For me its more wether it is abuse of power not for a company to use their device / OS technology paired with their market share to than create a fence / gate around the Internet to digital businesses.


            You see, these conglomerates limited their “tax” to business transactions around digital content and apps … yet there no actual natural limit to it. They could very well tax any business transaction that goes through apps … say buy groceries, whatever. The principles would have been just the same.


            Apple and Google do indeed own the technology around their devices and software. But third parties, that it includes you local supermarket or whatever, own the technology built on top and everything else.


            The App Store business model is not really about apps, but business transactions. Otherwise they would charge for hosting and distribution along SDK licensing. There is not way that a constant 30% of someone else’s business … weather around digital content or otherwise, no way


            So how can that be solved? Well either rule that given the significance market size they cannot do what they are doing … anti competitive policies. They should allow in app direct transactions regardless if it is in an App Store or not. These kind of pressure would than force changes in business model …


            You think it would be worst … just look around how the Internet is working so well, very well. It does not need the kind of fencing around business transactions that these App Store do in the end of the day.

            Cheers.

    • bettyblue

      1000% agree.


      I think the only thing that should be done is to allow a user to click on something in a app that opens a browser so they can pay another way. Even that is government over reach IMHO.


      This whole thing is about developers wanting to make more money from Apple and Google. They risk ruining a platform that those companies built, that makes them lots of money to eek out more profits.


      I personally only want to get my apps from the iOS store or my games from the Xbox store and only want to have pay those stores. I like the walled gardens and I have multiple wall gardens to choose from. If I don’t like one because of what they do I and others will move on.



      • MoopMeep

        Agree

        the problem with windows is that anyone can have an app and it can be posted on any random website….. so I know you have to be careful where you install stuff from. My relative aren’t as computer savvy, so they just search google for apps which leads them to download and install compromised apps. I like on the phones that you are mostly protected from this

    • jim_vernon

      You're a fool if you think that companies the size of Google and Apple don't use their power to stifle competition.

    • michaelmdiv

      The problem with that argument is if everyone is doing it, then there is no real choice. Many "free market" advocates tend to forget that the free market only works with honest and complete information and viable alternatives for competition. Apple vs Google is merely picking your poison.

  5. VancouverNinja

    Apple has nowhere to move further on their ridiculous pricing. Google....what can they really do? They simply need to play fair and innovate. The only company doing this today is Microsoft.

    • lvthunder

      Sure they do. If they are forced to run the app store for free or at too low of a cost they will be forced to do what it seems like Microsoft is going to do. Advertising (AKA Recommended Apps) will come to all the OS's.

      • jdawgnoonan

        Google already does this and Apple makes enough money from their hardware alone to deserve any sympathy. Without the high quality apps that iOS has it would not be as successful.

        • jdawgnoonan

          Apple makes enough money from their hardware alone to *NOT* deserve any sympathy

          • lvthunder

            It's not sympathy. I don't think they should be forced to run the App Store at a loss. I don't think any business should be forced to run a business unit at a loss.

            • Daishi

              Google and Apple’s mobile stores earned a collective $143 billion in revenues in 2020,


              So for expediencies sake let’s imagine that this is split 50:50, do you really think that it costs anything like $70 billion to run either of these app stores?


              No one is asking that they be run at a loss, just that they not be setup as an extortion racket to milk fees from the work of developers.

              • rbgaynor

                That $143 billion is the total revenue, not the earnings for Apple and Google. The vast bulk of that revenue went to pay developers, your analogy is flawed.

            • nbplopes

              The idea that Apple critiques are forcing the App Store to be run at a loss is absurd.

        • curtisspendlove

          Sympathy has nothing to do with it.


          Apple are smart and ruthless. If the governments want to align against the “big five” they have a fight coming.


          Each of these companies, individually, are akin to governmental superpowers. If they get pissed off, you haven’t seen anything yet.


          But I expect that most of this is simply sabre-rattling and the government will do just enough to flex for the public.

          • nbplopes

            Yes Apple its an amazing company. Still its nothing but a supplier of the world … like any other company.


            The day democratic governments start to fear big tech companies like Google or Apple … only than you should be considering … “its not going to be pretty”.

  6. max daru

    I'm not going to call lowering the fees predatory pricing. It's more a move to placate regulators. Amazon is guilty of predatory pricing by running their online retail businesses at a loss to force competitors under.

    • nbplopes

      They don’t need to lower the fees. No regulator can do that. What a regulator can do is in the context of platforms built around a single “app store” require it to allow suppliers to use references to their own Web Site for further services, including payment and billing to unlock its use.


      Meaning, consumers have the option of either use the supplier services or the store service to acquire their goods and digital services directly in the app. Rather than going through hoops and loops to do so … its actually a matter of convenience and security.


      Simple.

  7. Chris_Kez

    I will continue to be annoyed by every mention of antitrust actions against Google and Apple while regulators do nothing to curb internet service providers or improve competition, availability, price, and performance of broadband in this country.

    • Greg Green

      ISPs discovered it’s cheaper to buy towns and counties, even small state legislatures, rather than buying congressional committees.

    • lvthunder

      You will soon have another option. Starlink. Well as long as it doesn't get too hot.


      Also in my neighborhood, I just got a wireless service called WeLink. It's giving me 800Mps both ways. I think it uses Microwave from my house to someplace within a couple of miles of me.

    • nbplopes

      Well actually the regulator have done a lot in that matter. If it wasn’t for them they would probably be requiring Apple and Google 30% of their revenue just to be able to operate on top of their networks.

    • txag

      Good point. I probably have lost less than $50 total in terms of app costs, but I pay many extra hundreds of $ per year for crappy cable modem service because the service is a monopoly in our city.

      • jdawgnoonan

        Amen! I live in the Des Moines, Iowa area and Google Fiber is coming to West Des Moines and the local (and very mediocre) cable provider, Mediacom, is suing the city to try to prevent competition.

  8. ringofvoid

    Bet ya a dollar this gets throw out of court for "not enough evidence" or "lack of standing"

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