Google slapped with antitrust lawsuit over app store management

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2021
An assembly of attorneys general representing 36 states and the District of Columbia filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Wednesday, claiming the company's handling of the Play Store violates U.S. law.

Google Play


Filed in California federal court, the suit is led by Utah, North Carolina, Tennessee, New York, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa and Nebraska, reports Politico. It is the latest in a string of antitrust challenges against the search giant, which saw three similar actions in 2020.

In October, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a suit targeting Google's outsized power in mobile search. December saw 15 states and territories file suit against Google's advertising business, while a second action backed by 38 states and territories again took issue with the firm's search engine.

Today's antitrust suit deals with Google's Play Store fee sharing structure, which currently demands developers pay a 30% commission on sales of digital goods and services. The company recently adopted a fee schedule that drops the rate down to 15% for the first $1 million app makers earn in a year.

Google's reduced commissions came after the company said it will more strictly enforce a policy that requires developers to use its billing system for purchases made through the Play Store. The announcement sparked intense pushback from the likes of Netflix, Spotify and Match Group, which have avoided Google's commissions. That change is set to go into effect in September.

For its part, Google in a Senate hearing in April said its fee structure is in line with industry standards. Further, revenue from Play Store commissions goes toward developer tools and Android updates. Apple has made identical claims in the past as part of its many legal battles over App Store management.

Unlike users of Apple's iOS, however, Android device owners have the option of purchasing apps from other app stores or sideloading software directly from the web.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,363member
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
  • Reply 2 of 19
    KTRKTR Posts: 229member
    Financial legal extortion IMO 
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 19
    WgkruegerWgkrueger Posts: 352member
    Pretty soon our tech companies will be running like the US government. Back to 32 bit code and floppy disks IMO. 
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 19
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,897member
    No! You mean the store fees aren’t just for financial transactions? They pay for the ‘free’ OS and ‘free’ developer tools & deployment?

    Interesting they have triggered the same “we want your store but we don’t want to pay for it” when other stores & direct distribution are available. Almost as if the idea of using something and not paying for it is unreasonable.
    edited July 2021 magman1979applguywatto_cobraDetnator
  • Reply 5 of 19
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    Here's a link to the complaint that was filed...
     
    https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/utah_v_google.1.complaint_redacted.pdf

    Part of what is being alleged is that Google advertised Android as being "open" while using a host of strategies to ensure that it wasn't really "open". There are a lot of details about Google's alleged tactics to undermine side loading and alternate app stores in the PDF. According to the filing, Google controls over 90% of the market and no alternate app store has more than 5%. But in a nutshell, that's a big part of the lawsuit: what Google claimed to the public/market/developers versus what they were actually doing. This lawsuit is specific to licensable operating systems. Since iOS is proprietary, it's not included in this particular action. 

    One thing that is similar to Epic's lawsuit against Apple is the idea that requiring developers to use Google's 1st party billing for in-app purchases is an "illegal tie". 

    edited July 2021 tmaypscooter63watto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 6 of 19
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,989member
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    Well, of course it’s weird to you and we all know why.
    Rayz2016pscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 19
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,716member
  • Reply 8 of 19
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,647member
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    I am not saying I support the lawsuit, but non Google stores are so small that there is pretty much only the ones store for most users.  The store that comes bundled with their new phone, front and center.  

    How many (percentage?) A-list developers regularly release on non Google run stores?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 19
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,363member
    chadbag said:
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    I am not saying I support the lawsuit, but non Google stores are so small that there is pretty much only the ones store for most users.  The store that comes bundled with their new phone, front and center.  

    How many (percentage?) A-list developers regularly release on non Google run stores?
    If the AG's were truly concerned wouldn't the wiser move being first address the lack of an alternative app store at all and then procedd from there. I'm certainly not saying Google should be permitted to continue running and offering Google Play as is, and not saying they shouldn't either. The bigger issue would be not offereing any choice at all in a platform app store outside of the official first party one.

    I would think it a certainly that if at the end of all this Google Play must open itself to more competition and less control of the financial side then it's a given that Apple must make even more changes. That's why I found it odd they are complaining about Google and not Apple...

    ... unless the idea is to go after the one with legal question marks around their app store first so there's no question at all about the second even more controlling one.  Otherwise the lawsuit seems strange and misdirected. In any event I have little doubt Apple is rooting for Google on this one.
    edited July 2021 muthuk_vanalingamGabyFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 10 of 19
    gatorguy said: If the AG's were truly concerned wouldn't the wiser move being first address the lack of an alternative app store at all and then procedd from there. 
    iOS is proprietary and only appears on Apple's hardware while Android is licensed and appears on a wide variety of hardware brands. Since the AG's know that Epic already has an active lawsuit that is challenging commissions/payment methods/alternate app stores for a proprietary OS, they're focusing their own suit on the licensed OS. There's the potential for different results due to the difference between proprietary and licensed.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 19
    tmaytmay Posts: 5,716member

    11. Google owns the majority of the mobile apps on the market today. (Sensor Tower)

    With apps like Maps, Hangouts and YouTube, Google LLC owns the majority of apps published in both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Google is creating apps to improve the experience of users and strengthen their connection to the brand. It’s a great business move, and you don’t have to be Alphabet to do it. 

    Chart - most apps by publisher

    https://mindsea.com/app-stats/

    and;

    https://www.theverge.com/2021/7/7/22549338/apple-google-apps-comscore-study-facebook

    "fIf you use an iPhone or Android phone, chances are the majority of your most-used apps were made by Apple and Google.

    That’s the takeaway from a new Comscore study that ranks the popularity of preinstalled iOS and Android apps, such as Apple’s Messages, alongside apps made by other developers. The results show that the majority of apps people use on their phones in the US come preinstalled by either Apple or Google. The first-of-its-kind report was commissioned by Facebook, one of Apple’s loudest critics, and shared exclusively with The Verge."

    YMMV

    I would suggest that merely allowing third party app stores is not sufficient to avoid regulatory scrutiny. If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck...

    edited July 2021 watto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 12 of 19
    I am probably wrong but, is seems that if you want to be a successful American company then you need to find a way of not being too successful.

    Great if you only operate in USA, but if you are want to be successful in the world then it appears that the American government wishes to stop that happening. (Read EU instead of USA if it applies). 

    Great for all the rest of the countries who's companies cannot achieve the same high success.

    Hopefully all governments are behaving the same so we are all equally disadvantaged. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 19
    davidwdavidw Posts: 1,535member
    gatorguy said:
    chadbag said:
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    I am not saying I support the lawsuit, but non Google stores are so small that there is pretty much only the ones store for most users.  The store that comes bundled with their new phone, front and center.  

    How many (percentage?) A-list developers regularly release on non Google run stores?
    If the AG's were truly concerned wouldn't the wiser move being first address the lack of an alternative app store at all and then procedd from there. I'm certainly not saying Google should be permitted to continue running and offering Google Play as is, and not saying they shouldn't either. The bigger issue would be not offereing any choice at all in a platform app store outside of the official first party one.

    I would think it a certainly that if at the end of all this Google Play must open itself to more competition and less control of the financial side then it's a given that Apple must make even more changes. That's why I found it odd they are complaining about Google and not Apple...

    ... unless the idea is to go after the one with legal question marks around their app store first so there's no question at all about the second even more controlling one.  Otherwise the lawsuit seems strange and misdirected. In any event I have little doubt Apple is rooting for Google on this one.
    Here's another take on the matter of Google Play Store having competition and Android users having choices of app stores. 

    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/google-saw-samsung-app-store-103312380.html

    The bigger issue is that Google might be using their market power to place competing app stores at a disadvantage, discouraging large developers from placing their apps in a third party app store and discouraging third parties from opening an app store. This at the expense of more competition and choices for developers and Android users. Even though Google makes a big claim that Android is "open". This would clearly be a violation with anti-trust laws that been around for a century, if true. Microsoft was charged for doing about the same to Dell and other large computer makers.

    However, with Apple, new anti-trust laws must be passed in order to assure that Apple actually has a "monopoly" with their App Store, in a "market" that they completely own by the mere fact that iOS is their IP that is only used on their iDevices and it's only 23% of the "market" that should be considered, when addressing any anti-trust violations, under the old laws. Its only under the new laws, if they pass, that Apple has a "monopoly" with their App Store as iOS would be considered a "market" that would fall under anti-trust laws as it's an online platform own by a company with over $600B market cap AND with over 100M MAU (monthly active users).  

    Remember, under old anti-trust laws, having a monopoly or monopoly power, is not illegal and not subject to regulations, so long as they are not abused. Making too much profit by charging what would be considered industry standard or the rate everyone else is charging, is not considered being anti-competitive. And a "market" does not consist solely of customers that choses to use one company's ecosystem, product or IP.   The new laws aimed at big tech, will change all that.  




    edited July 2021 foregoneconclusionRayz2016watto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 14 of 19
    ericthehalfbeeericthehalfbee Posts: 4,346member
    What people are missing in their Apple whataboutism is that The App Store had their rules since day one, and have actually relaxed rules over the years.

    Google was wide open in the beginning and started to lock things down after Android took off. Before then Android was offered as a free and open source OS. It no longer is.

    That’s a classic anti issue for Google.
    tmaywatto_cobraFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 15 of 19
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,093member
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    The difference is Google has been paying developers to not offer apps outside Google's store. So side loading is not really an "alternative" when it comes to the top apps on Google's store.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 19
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,363member
    flydog said:
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    The difference is Google has been paying developers to not offer apps outside Google's store. So side loading is not really an "alternative" when it comes to the top apps on Google's store.
    They have? I see there's a claim but like many a lawsuit against Apple, saying it is so is still not proving it. 
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 17 of 19
    gatorguy said:
    flydog said:
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    The difference is Google has been paying developers to not offer apps outside Google's store. So side loading is not really an "alternative" when it comes to the top apps on Google's store.
    They have? I see there's a claim but like many a lawsuit against Apple, saying it is so is still not proving it. 

    That’s a claim, true.

    However, it’s a fact that Google has been locking down Android for years now, after initially offering it as free and open source. This is where the antitrust issues come from.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 19
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,363member
    gatorguy said:
    flydog said:
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    The difference is Google has been paying developers to not offer apps outside Google's store. So side loading is not really an "alternative" when it comes to the top apps on Google's store.
    They have? I see there's a claim but like many a lawsuit against Apple, saying it is so is still not proving it. 

    That’s a claim, true.

    However, it’s a fact that Google has been locking down Android for years now, after initially offering it as free and open source. This is where the antitrust issues come from.
    Is it where it comes from?

    Since the only relevant market is the US where iOS is the dominant player in all app categories from revenue to available devices to total number of apps, that does not explain the AG's targeting Google and their Play Store. It's by far the smaller in terms of coverage, control, and app revenues. IMO Apple has also tightened its control thru ongoing changes in developer rules over the past few years, and tighter hold on payments and the rules governing it, and the marketing of apps outside of the AppStore.

    Google Android is unquestionably the less-locked-down with millions of US Android owners having access to and/or using alternative app stores to Google Play such as Amazon, Aptoide. GetJar and Opera Mobile. Yet it's the smaller, less restrictive market of Android and Google Play being targeted by a lawsuit? 

    This seems more politically motivated than protecting consumers from paying too much for apps. 

    Google's argument is essentially the same as Apple's as it pertains to their respective app stores:

    "In a blog post, Google dismissed the suit as "meritless," saying the changes the plaintiffs demand for its Google Play store risk "raising costs for small developers, impeding their ability to innovate and compete, and making apps across the Android ecosystem less secure for consumers."

    "This lawsuit isn’t about helping the little guy or protecting consumers," the company said. "It’s about boosting a handful of major app developers who want the benefits of Google Play without paying for it."

    If that makes sense for Apple, and the overwhelming opinion held here is that it does, why would it not equally apply to Google? 

    edited July 2021 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 19
    DetnatorDetnator Posts: 287member
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    flydog said:
    gatorguy said:
    Weird lawsuit. On Android there's the option of side-loading and using alternative app stores like Amazon's. On iOS there is no such option, it is 100% Apple's to control, but the AG's are accusing Google of antitrust violations despite not having control of the app delivery market for the OS??
    The difference is Google has been paying developers to not offer apps outside Google's store. So side loading is not really an "alternative" when it comes to the top apps on Google's store.
    They have? I see there's a claim but like many a lawsuit against Apple, saying it is so is still not proving it. 

    That’s a claim, true.

    However, it’s a fact that Google has been locking down Android for years now, after initially offering it as free and open source. This is where the antitrust issues come from.
    Is it where it comes from?

    Since the only relevant market is the US where iOS is the dominant player in all app categories from revenue to available devices to total number of apps, that does not explain the AG's targeting Google and their Play Store. It's by far the smaller in terms of coverage, control, and app revenues. IMO Apple has also tightened its control thru ongoing changes in developer rules over the past few years, and tighter hold on payments and the rules governing it, and the marketing of apps outside of the AppStore.

    Google Android is unquestionably the less-locked-down with millions of US Android owners having access to and/or using alternative app stores to Google Play such as Amazon, Aptoide. GetJar and Opera Mobile. Yet it's the smaller, less restrictive market of Android and Google Play being targeted by a lawsuit? 

    This seems more politically motivated than protecting consumers from paying too much for apps. 

    Google's argument is essentially the same as Apple's as it pertains to their respective app stores:

    "In a blog post, Google dismissed the suit as "meritless," saying the changes the plaintiffs demand for its Google Play store risk "raising costs for small developers, impeding their ability to innovate and compete, and making apps across the Android ecosystem less secure for consumers."

    "This lawsuit isn’t about helping the little guy or protecting consumers," the company said. "It’s about boosting a handful of major app developers who want the benefits of Google Play without paying for it."

    If that makes sense for Apple, and the overwhelming opinion held here is that it does, why would it not equally apply to Google? 

    Well… hard to believe I’m agreeing with you on something but if you ask me it does apply.  

    I take issue with your claim that Apple has tightened its control and grip.  As others have pointed out here Apple has only loosened its rules over the years.  Meanwhile Google has tightened theirs.  

    But either way both Apple and Google have built something good with each of their stores and I agree this attack on Google is as meritless as the attacks on Apple — yes arguably more so when as we all know Android does have other options not paralleled on iOS.  

    Although if it’s true that Google are actively resorting to sneaky tactics that result in a significantly different result than they advertise then that’s not ok. At least Apple makes it no secret their system is locked down etc and what it is and does is exactly what it “says on the tin”. Is that the same in Google’s case? I’m not saying I know either way. Just proposing it might explain this. 
    edited July 2021
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