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US states sue Google for antitrust violations

Google is facing lawsuits from 36 US states and Washington D.C. alleging that its control over Android app stores violates antitrust laws. A lawsuit states that Google is preventing Android device users from gaining access to a wide range of mobile apps because of their use of exclusive contracts and anticompetitive practices in the Google Play Store.

The coalition – led by attorneys general from Utah, North Carolina, and Tennessee – accuses Google of forcing app developers to use Google Billing as a middleman, forcing app consumers to pay Google’s commissions – up to 30 percent – permanently. In his remarks, James said, ‘Google has been the gatekeeper of the internet for years, but it has recently become the gatekeeper of all digital devices, so we pay more for the software we use every day’.

As usual, Google is abusing its dominance to stifle competition and profit to the tune of billions of dollars. ‘Through its illegal practices, the company has ensured that hundreds of millions of Android users go to Google, and only Google, to download millions of applications for their phones and tablets,’ she said.

‘Google is sucking the lifeblood out of millions of small businesses who are only trying to keep up with competitors. This lawsuit will end Google’s illegal monopoly power and finally give voice to millions of consumers and business owners,’ James said. The lawsuit asserts that Google imposes technical barriers that hinder or completely prevent third-party app developers from distributing apps beyond the Google Play Store.

In particular, Google’s Android platform includes misleading security warnings and other barriers that discourage users from downloading apps from sources other than Google Play – effectively preventing application developers and app stores from taking direct distribution to consumers, it claims. Android has not been allowed to serve as an ‘open source’ for many years, effectively cutting off competition.

Android Compatibility Commitments or ACCs are agreements between Google and OEMs that require them to use Android. In these ‘take it or leave it’ agreements, OEMs must promise not to develop or implement any variants or versions of Android that deviate from the Google-certified version, the lawsuit claims. Google is accused of ‘buying off’ its competition in the market for app distribution, according to the lawsuit. As a result, all payments made by app developers and users through the Google Play Store must go through Google Play Billing, the company’s payment processing service.

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Accordingly, Google is unlawfully tying the use of Google’s payment processor – a separate service within a separate market for payments within apps – to distribution through the Google Play Store. ‘Google extracts an exorbitant processing fee for each transaction, as high as 30 percent and several times higher than in competitive markets,’ the report said.


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