The federal legal action, filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, claims Google's in-app subscription fees, one-time transaction charges and various user penalties amounted to an illegal monopoly that locked out third-party mobile app developers while cheating them out of a fair share of revenues. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Google faces a second antitrust trial within two months in a case that pits the Google Play Store against Fortnite developer Epic Games, which sued the tech giant three years ago to secure open access to apps and in-app purchases on both Android and iOS devices.
The court battle holds deep implications for app users worldwide and could ultimately impact the way apps are distributed and how customer transactions are managed in virtual spaces.
The federal legal action, filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, claims Google's in-app subscription fees, one-time transaction charges and various user penalties amounted to an illegal monopoly that locked out third-party mobile app developers while holding out on a fair share of revenues.
The case stems from a lengthy debate over whether app store titans like Google and Apple were indeed promoting fair and open competition while claiming their platforms were generating revenue for small businesses and providing data security for both Android and iOS users.
The chief executives for each company were expected to testify, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Epic CEO Tim Sweeney.
The ongoing legal dispute emerged in 2020 when Epic initiated Project Liberty, a strategy aimed at bypassing the app store rules of Google and Apple, which set up a clash with the tech giants.
As part of the strategy, Epic revised the Fortnite app to prompt players to make in-app purchases directly on Epic's website, bypassing the in-app payment systems of Apple and Google, and breaching the terms of the app stores.
As a result, Fortnite was booted from both app stores, making it inaccessible to Apple users on iOS devices, while the game remains available on Android, but only through alternate channels not affiliated with Google.
A legal victory for Epic would likely compel Google to modify its Android platform, which currently imposes a fee of 15% to 30% on digital purchases within apps, and potentially open the door for Epic to have its app store preinstalled on devices as an alternative to Apple and Google.
The trial takes place amid a separate antitrust lawsuit that went on trial in September in which the Department of Justice accuses Google of paying billions of dollars in lucrative contracts to maintain a monopoly over digital advertising.
Those proceedings were expected to last three months, with prosecutors accusing the tech titan of attempting to crush its smaller rivals by ensuring its browser is the first to pop up on electronic devices when users search the Internet.
The case was filed in October 2020 during the final months of the Trump administration, with then-Attorney General William Barr alleging Google had enriched itself through deals that made its search engine the default browser on millions of mobile devices and other platforms.
Previously, the lawsuit was joined by more than a dozen attorneys general and a group of 35 states who filed separate antitrust cases in early 2023, alleging Google had "used anticompetitive, exclusionary and unlawful means to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies."
Both cases are the first major antitrust matters to go to trial in more than two decades, while the outcomes are likely to change how tech companies conduct business that ultimately impacts a broad swath of the globe that was increasingly dependent on the Internet.
The Google Play Store touts 2.5 billion users worldwide.