The Epic Games vs Google jury trial begins on Monday. The Fortnite maker accuses Google of abusing its control of the Android app market, charging a 30% commission known as the “Google tax.” Epic has sued Apple for similar reasons before but with little success.
In its original complaint, Epic reminded Google that, in 1998, it was founded with the motto “Don’t be Evil.” However, more than 20 years later, it believes that Google “has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought, and is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize.”
Epic claims that it doesn’t seek any monetary compensation or deals. Instead, it wants Google to deliver on its broken promise of an open and competitive Android ecosystem for all users and industry participants.
“Google’s actions force app developers and consumers into Google’s own monopolized app store – the Google Play Store,” states Epic’s complaint.
Google allegedly enforces “anti-competitive restrictions” against app developers, resulting in higher prices for digital content, as every payment, including in-app, is collected by Google and not the app developer.
“Google then taxes the transaction at an exorbitant 30% rate, remitting the remaining 70% to the developer who actually made the sale. This 30% commission is often ten times higher than the price typically paid for the use of other electronic payment solutions,” Epic claims.
Epic protested the practice by releasing an update for its Fortnite game, which enabled Epic’s own payment tool as an alternative. However, Google responded by removing Fortnite from Google Play Store listings altogether.
The lawsuit against Google was initially filed on August 13th, 2020, and the trial will be held in the San Francisco federal court.
In challenging Google, for a while, Epic was accompanied by Match Group, which owns popular dating apps and filed a separate case. Match Group also claimed that Google unlawfully prohibits the distribution of other app stores on Google Play. However, it settled with Google and dropped out of the anti-trust case.
Epic has already challenged Apple’s control over its even stricter App Store with mixed results. The judge ruled out that Apple was a monopoly in the market for mobile gaming.
However, prohibiting app developers from redirecting users to external payment systems was determined as anti-competitive. Apple now has to allow developers to link to external payment solutions.
This brings little comfort for Epic, which, according to the court decision, breached its contract with Apple and had to cover damages. Fortnite remains unavailable on the App Store, and there is no option for installing the app on iOS devices due to Apple's restrictions on sideloading. This practice may change with the implementation of new EU regulations.
Epic has petitioned the Supreme Court to review the decision in the Epic v. Apple case.
Unlike Apple, Android allows sideloading by downloading apps directly or using alternative app stores. Google justifies its taxes with the costs of maintaining its platform and services.
Greater Android openness, settlements with other plaintiffs, and Epic’s loss to Apple may give Google the upper hand, Paul Gallant, an analyst at TD Cowen in Washington, told the Financial Times.
However, in this case, the verdict will be determined by a jury, unlike Apple's case, which was decided by a judge, introducing a higher level of unpredictability.
Google also faces an antitrust case filed by the US Justice Department, which accuses the tech giant of subverting competition in internet advertising technologies. The Justice Department has accused Alphabet's Google of paying $10 billion annually to device makers like Apple, wireless companies like AT&T, and browser makers like Mozilla to keep its search engine's market share at around 90%.
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