Google parent Alphabet loses Play Store antitrust case with Epic Games

“Fortnite” maker Epic Games has prevailed in its high-profile antitrust trial over Alphabet’s Google, which alleged the Play app store operated as an illegal monopoly.

An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building(REUTERS)

“After 4 weeks of detailed court testimony, the California jury found against the Google Play monopoly on all counts,” wrote Epic CEO Tim Sweeney in a post on social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

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Jurors found for Epic on all counts, a court filing showed. The court in January will begin work on what remedies to implement.

Google said it would appeal. “We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem,” Wilson White, vice president of government affairs and public policy at Google, said in an emailed statement.

Lawyers for the two companies made their final arguments on Monday morning, after more than a month of trial in Epic’s lawsuit, which accused Google taking action to quash competitors and charging unduly high fees of up to 30% to app developers.

Among its allegations were that Google illegally ties together its Play store and billing service, meaning developers were required to use both to have their apps included in the store.

The ruling marks a stunning defeat for Google, which operates alongside Apple one of the world’s biggest app stores. If the ruling holds it could upend the entire app store economy, potentially giving developers more sway over how their apps are distributed and how they profit off them.

“(Today’s verdict) proves that Google’s app store practices are illegal and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition and reduce innovation,” Epic Games said in a statement on their website.

The federal judge handed the case to the jury less than four hours earlier, with instructions that a decision must be unanimous.

“The trial has shone a very bright light on what Google has done to impair the competition,” a lawyer for Epic, Gary Bornstein, told jurors earlier in the day, and that Google “systematically blocks” alternative app stores on the company’s Play store.

Google has denied wrongdoing, arguing that it competes “intensely on price, quality, and security” against Apple’s App Store.

A lawyer for Google, Jonathan Kravis, told jurors that “Google does not want to lose 60 million Android users to Apple every year.” Google lowered its fee structure to compete with Apple, Kravis said.

“This is not the behavior of a monopolist,” he said.

Google settled related claims from dating app maker Match before the trial started. The tech giant also settled related antitrust claims by U.S. states and consumers under terms that have not been made public.

Epic lodged a similar antitrust case against Apple in 2020, but a U.S. judge largely ruled in favor of Apple in September 2021.

Epic has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to revive key claims in the Apple case, and Apple is fighting part of a ruling for Epic that would require changes to App Store rules.

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