Risk & Compliance

Google Hit With Antitrust Suit Over Play Store

A group of states alleges Google uses anti-competitive tactics to maintain its dominance of the Android app market.
Matthew HellerJuly 8, 2021

A group of 36 states and the District of Columbia has launched a new legal attack on Google, alleging it uses anti-competitive tactics to maintain its “virtually unchallenged power” in the Android app market.

As The New York Times reports, a recent slew of antitrust complaints against Google has largely focused on mobile search and advertising, including an action in which the Department of Justice claims Google has illegally protected its monopoly over online search advertising.

The states’ suit filed on Thursday targets the Google Play Store, which, according to the complaint, is the source of more than 90% of all Android apps in the U.S., and digital purchases that consumers make with an app. Google takes a 30 percent commission from both app purchases and sales of digital goods or services.

“Today, Google enjoys virtually unchallenged power over Android app distribution and Android in-app purchases of digital content that extends to every state, district, and territory in the United States,” the suit says.

“Because of Google’s anticompetitive conduct, Google Play Store’s market share … faces no credible threats, and market forces cannot exert pressure on its supracompetitive commissions for app and in-app purchases,” it adds.

Google has argued that it allows other companies, such as Samsung and Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, to operate app stores for its Android software. But the complaint says no other Android app store has more than 5% of the market.

According to the suit, Google maintains its monopolies through “artificial technological and contractual conditions that Google imposes on the Android ecosystem.” Among other things, it requires Android device manufacturers to preload Google Play Store on the default home screen, make it undeletable from the device, and ensure that no other preloaded app store has a more prominent placement than the Google Play Store.

Consumers who download apps from the Google Play Store are also required to use Google Play Billing for all in-app purchases.

Apple, which operates the other major app store for smartphones, is also under scrutiny for the cut it takes from developers for app sales and subscriptions.