By Emma Nitzsche
A group of 36 state attorneys hit Google with an antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday accusing the tech giant of violating antitrust laws and using its power to buy off its competitors. The 114-page complaint was filed in a Northern California federal court and claimed the tech giant used “monopolistic leverage” on its Android app store, Google Play.
The 36 states include Utah, North Carolina, Tennessee, New York, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, and Nebraska. They claimed that Google controls 90% of the market for the Android apps, and it undermines competing app stores by refusing to let other app stores advertise on YouTube or its search engine.
In addition, the complaint argued Google represented an illegal monopoly by using various tactics and anticompetitive barriers to ensure it is the distributor for the majority of the apps on Android devices.
The lawsuit fixates on the 30% commission Google charges its developers and creators for selling their goods and services via the Google Play store. Even apps with in-app purchases, such as Netflix or Spotify, will be taxed. The lawsuit alleges Google abuses its power to bring in billions of dollars at the expense of consumers, who are forced to pay higher prices to subsidize the commission. Moreover, app creators and developers have less money and incentive to create new apps for Android users.
“Google must be held accountable for harming small businesses and consumers. It must stop using its monopolistic power and hyper-dominant market position to unlawfully leverage billions of added dollars from smaller companies, competitors, and consumers beyond what should be paid,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes in a statement.
Google called the allegations “meritless” and said there are rival app stores for Android devices and that consumers can download apps directly from the developer’s website.
“We don’t impose the same restrictions as other mobile operating systems do,” wrote Wilson White, Google’s senior director of Public Policy, in a separate statement. “So it’s strange that a group of state attorneys general chose to file a lawsuit attacking a system that provides more openness and choice than others.”
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of antitrust actions against big tech in the U.S. and Europe. Google is already facing three major antitrust cases in the U.S., including one filed by the Department of Justice and one filed by a bipartisan coalition. The current lawsuit mirrors one filed last year against Google by Epic Games, which developed the popular game ‘Fortnite.’