Google might face US antitrust lawsuit over its cut of Play Store sales

At least three states are reportedly investigating the tech giant.

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Mariella Moon
December 19, 2020 9:13 AM
London, UK - October 26, 2019: People walking by the main entrance of the Google headquarters in London King's Cross at day
_ultraforma_ via Getty Images

Google is already facing quite a few antitrust lawsuits around the world, and the list could grow by one come January. According to Bloomberg, at least three US states (Utah, North Carolina and New York) are looking into the fees the tech giant takes from in-app purchases and subscriptions. The states’ attorneys general are reportedly in the midst of preparing an antitrust lawsuit and could file it as soon as January.

Google takes a 30 percent cut from Play Store subscriptions and in-app purchases, though that commission drops to 15 percent after the first year for subscriptions. Apple has the same policy, but the publication didn’t say whether the states’ local authorities are also preparing a lawsuit against the tech giant.

The companies’ app store commission rates are a major point of contention between them and developers. Just a few months ago, Epic sued both Google and Apple for removing Fortnite from their app stores after it offered users a way to purchase items directly from the developer for a lower price. As you can guess, the move was an attempt to avoid paying the tech giants’ fees. A bunch of companies, including Spotify and Facebook, ended up rallying behind the game developer to protest Google’s and Apple’s app store policies.

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When asked about the investigation, Google told the publication that Android developers don’t have to publish on the Play Store if they don’t want to pay its fees. Android and Google Play VP Sameer Samat said:

“Android has always allowed people to get apps from multiple app stores. Each store is able to decide its own business model and consumer features. This openness means that even if a developer and Google do not agree on business terms the developer can still distribute on the Android platform.”

Just a few days ago, Google was hit with its third antitrust lawsuit for the year in the US. Texas’ attorney general led a group of 38 states for a lawsuit focused on the tech giant’s search and advertising business. “Google’s anticompetitive actions,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement, “have protected its general search monopolies and excluded rivals, depriving consumers of the benefits of competitive choices, forestalling innovation, and undermining new entry or expansion.”

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Google might face US antitrust lawsuit over its cut of Play Store sales