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Google and Epic Games Hit Roadblock in Antitrust Negotiations

Apple, Google, Fortnight apps on phone screen

Antitrust talks between Google and Epic Games are reportedly at a standstill.

The two sides cannot agree on what changes Google would need to make to its Play Store to resolve a disagreement over the fees that mobile app developers must pay, Bloomberg News reported late Wednesday (Feb. 28).

Epic, maker of the popular video game Fortnite, won a court victory in December when a jury found that Google used its dominant market position to hinder competition.

While U.S. District Judge James Donato had asked both sides to work toward a settlement that would resolve Epic’s antitrust allegations, the companies said in a court filing Wednesday that they were at an “impasse,” the report said.

Bloomberg’s report says that the judge had said last month that if Google and Epic can’t resolve the issue, he’ll hold a hearing in March. Donato also indicated he wants expert opinion from economists, the report said.

Epic Games sued Google in federal court 2020, alleging that the tech giant had monopolized the Android app distribution market through side deals with rivals and had used its resources to stifle competition.

Google argued that its partnerships were meant to enhance the competitiveness of Android-based phones against their main competitor, Apple’s iPhone.

The jury found that Google Play holds monopoly power via its parent company, engaging in anti-competitive behavior.

As noted here at the time, the outcome of this case could have far-reaching implications for the Android app ecosystem, with some observers saying it could weaken app stores rules in general for both Google and Apple.

“The dominoes are going to start falling here,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said in an interview with Bloomberg following the verdict. “The end of 30% is in sight.”

Meanwhile, Google is facing other antitrust pressures as it battles the U.S. Justice Department, which accuses the company of holding a monopoly in the online search space.

That suit claims Google has spent billions to ensure its search engine remains the default choice for smartphones, while Google counters it engages in fair competition. Recently unsealed court documents show that Google offers Microsoft’s bid to work with Apple as proof.

Microsoft, Google says, had asked Apple in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2020 to use its Bing search engine as the default search option on the Apple Safari browser.

“In each instance, Apple took a hard look at the relative quality of Bing versus Google and concluded that Google was the superior default choice,” the court filing said. “That is competition.”