Jury rules Google Play app store and billing an illegal monopoly

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Epic’s 1984 parody

The Epic versus Google case has reached a significant milestone as the jury ruled that Google violated California and federal antitrust laws, but years of appeals are sure to follow.

Just three years after Apple’s win against Epic for similar claims, Google has lost. The jury ruled that Google made special deals to stifle competition for the Play Store.

According to a report from Wired, the San Francisco jury unanimously found Google in violation of California and federal antitrust laws. However, the litigation has only begun as a judge must decide what to order Google to do to remedy the situation, followed by appeals from Google.

“We plan to challenge the verdict,” says Wilson White, a Google vice president of government affairs and public policy. “We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem.”

Google’s Android operating system already allows third-party app stores and side loading. However, the lawsuit asserts that Google uses its power over Android and the smartphone market to exact control over what apps and storefronts are promoted, pushing for Google Play over others.

Epic also alleged that existing options for users to circumvent Google Play were too cumbersome and purposefully built to push users back to Google. The company was effectively “shutting rivals off,” Epic lawyer Gary Bornstein shared.

Over the course of the trial we saw evidence that Google was willing to pay billions of dollars to stifle alternative app stores by paying developers to abandon their own store efforts and direct distribution plans, and offering highly lucrative agreements with device manufacturers in exchange for excluding competing app stores.

The blog post concludes with a thank you to the court for “the next steps determining the remedies that will right Google’s decades of anticompetitive conduct.”

Conversely, Apple escaped Epic’s lawsuit with only one count against it — anti-steering practices. Apple is still fighting that ruling but will likely have to comply eventually. Epic’s fight to have a foothold in app distribution and monetization continues as governments become more interested in combating antitrust.

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