In a high-stakes antitrust jury trial that kicked off on Monday, Epic Games, the creator of the popular game Fortnite, has leveled serious accusations against tech giant Google.
The trial, scheduled to extend until December, is unfolding in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco, with the potential to reshape the Android app store landscape significantly. Epic Games is not pursuing monetary damages in this lawsuit, but rather aiming to challenge the dominant position of Google’s Play Store on Android devices, reported Courthouse News.
Epic Games initiated this legal battle against Google in 2020, asserting that the Play Store operates as a monopoly, inflating app prices by tethering payments to its platform while stifling alternative app stores and payment methods. According to Epic, this practice violates federal and state antitrust laws.
Originally, the lawsuit also named Match Group, the company behind the popular dating app Tinder, and even the United States government. However, both entities reached settlements with Google before the trial commenced.
Epic’s 2020 lawsuit was sparked when Google and Apple removed Fortnite from their respective app stores. This action was prompted by a hotfix implemented by Epic Games that allowed users to buy in-game currency directly from Epic at a discount, deliberately contravening the rules set by Google and Apple – an action dubbed “Project Liberty” by Epic, per Courthouse News.
Epic Games faced a setback in a similar lawsuit against Apple in 2021, and that case is currently under review by the Supreme Court.
Epic Games’ counsel, Gary Bornstein, has pointed out that Google imposes a substantial 30% commission on all in-app purchases, a fee that Epic believes to be excessively high. Bornstein argued that this fee has resulted in “extraordinary profit” for Google while adversely affecting consumers who face limited choices and higher costs. App developers, including Epic, have also allegedly suffered due to this practice, as it limits their freedom, and individuals who wish to establish their app stores have encountered barriers.
Additionally, Bornstein has accused Google of engaging in tactics involving the payment of substantial sums to competitors such as Nintendo, Activision Blizzard, and Riot Games in exchange for not establishing their app stores. Bornstein claimed that Google’s response to competition primarily follows a “bribe or block” strategy.
Furthermore, Google has been accused of incentivizing phone manufacturers not to pre-install competing app stores on Android devices, ensuring that most Android phones ship exclusively with Google’s Play Store. While Google technically permits other app stores, Bornstein contends that it remains an impractical choice.
Source: Court House News