In a landmark decision, a jury in California has ruled that Google’s Play store constitutes an illegal monopoly, marking a significant victory for Epic Games in their ongoing legal battle against the tech giant. The verdict, which came on December 11th, 2023, could have major implications for the future of app distribution on Android devices.
Epic Games, the creators of the popular game Fortnite, originally filed a lawsuit against Google in 2020, alleging that the company was using its dominant market position in the Android app market to stifle competition. The suit specifically targeted Google’s Play Store, which accounts for over 95% of all app downloads on Android phones in the US, and its mandatory use of Google Play Billing for all in-app purchases.
Epic argued that these practices constituted an illegal monopoly, as they forced app developers to use Google’s services and pay them a 30% commission on all in-app purchases. This, according to Epic, inflated the price of apps and in-app purchases for consumers and limited the choices available to them.
Google, for its part, denied any wrongdoing. The company argued that its practices were necessary to maintain a safe and secure app store for Android users and that it competed fairly against other app stores such as Apple’s App Store.
The jury, however, sided with Epic Games in their lawsuit. In a unanimous decision, they found that Google had violated antitrust laws by maintaining an illegal monopoly over the Android app market. This is a major blow to Google, as it could force the company to change its business practices and potentially open up the Android app market to more competition.
The exact ramifications of the jury’s decision are still unclear. It is now up to the judge to determine what remedies to impose on Google. These could include forcing Google to allow developers to use alternative app stores and payment systems, reducing its commission on in-app purchases, or even breaking up Google Play entirely.
Regardless of the specific remedies, this ruling is a major victory for Epic Games and for developers who have long complained about Google’s dominance in the Android app market. It could also have wider implications for the tech industry as a whole, as it signals a willingness by the courts to hold large tech companies accountable for their anti-competitive practices.