Google to Pay $700M to Settle AGs’ Antitrust Case re Play Store Practices


Company also agrees to change anticompetitive conduct pertaining to exclusivity, payments, pricing, and more.

Google will pay $700 million and change several of its Google Play Store practices which a group of 53 attorneys general charged were anticompetitive. The company will pay $630 million in restitution, minus costs and fees, to consumers who made purchases on the Google Play Store between August 2016 and September 2023 and were harmed by Google’s anticompetitive practices. Those eligible will receive automatic payments through PayPal or Venmo, or they can elect to receive a check or ACH transfer. Google will pay the states $70 million (In Re Google Play Store Antitrust Litigation, Case No. 3:21md02981JD, N.D. Calif.).
The announcement followed a verdict in a separate case brought by Epic Games in which a San Francisco jury found that Google unlawfully maintained a monopoly over Android app sales and payments (Epic v. Google, Case No. 3:20-CV-05671-JD, N.D. Calif.). (See commentary by Jonathan Rubin of MoginRubin LLP).

The attorneys general of all 50 states plus Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, sued Google in 2021 alleging that Google unlawfully monopolized the market Android app distribution and in-app payment processing. Google allegedly signed anticompetitive contracts to prevent other app stores from being preloaded on Android devices, bought off key app developers who might have launched rival app stores, and created technological barriers to deter consumers from directly downloading apps to their devices, according to a press statement from North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, who led the case along with his counterparts from California, New York, Tennessee, and Utah. The states announced a settlement in principle on Sept. 5, 2023, and released the terms of the settlement on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023.

The agreement requires Google to make a number of changes designed to favor competition. The company will:

  1.  Give all developers the ability to allow users to pay through in-app billing systems other than Google Play Billing for at least five years.
  2.  Allow developers to offer cheaper prices for their apps and in-app products for consumers who use alternative, non-Google billing systems for at least five years.
  3.  Permit developers to steer consumers toward alternative, non-Google billing systems by advertising cheaper prices within their apps themselves for at least five years.
  4.  Not enter contracts that require the Play Store to be the exclusive, pre-loaded app store on a device or home screen for at least five years.
  5.  Allow the installation of third-party apps on Android phones from outside the Google Play Store for at least seven years.
  6.  Revise and reduce the warnings that appear on an Android device if a user attempts to download a third-party app from outside the Google Play Store for at least five years.
  7.  Maintain Android system support for third-party app stores, including allowing automatic updates, for four years.
  8.  Not require developers to launch their app catalogs on the Play Store at the same time as they launch on other app stores for at least four years.
  9.  Submit compliance reports to an independent monitor who will ensure that Google is not continuing its anticompetitive conduct for at least five years.

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