Google tenatively settles with US antitrust probe into Play Store dominance

Attorneys general and consumers from 37 states alleged that Google held an unfair monopoly on Android devices.

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Google has tentatively settled with the alliance of attorneys general that filed a lawsuit in 2021 alleging the search giant abused its dominance on Android app distribution through the Google Play store. Officials claimed Google was leveraging “its monopoly power with Android to unlawfully maintain its monopoly,” saying that 90 percent of all app sales took place through Google Play. Bloomberg reports that the matter has been referred to a judge who, if happy, can confirm the settlement and cancel the pending courtroom battle. It’s a smart move on Google’s part as it has faced a number of antitrust lawsuits over its dominance and power in recent years, with outcomes including a €4.3 billion ($4.6 billion) fine and threats to break up its advertising business.

Not everyone is pleased about the latest deal, with Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney tweeting Epic isn’t included in the settlement. The games developer sued Google in 2020, alleging the latter had made deals with other big games publisher to box out rival app stores. Sweeney is also, as usual, grumbling about other stores asking a cut of each transaction to pay for the running costs of those stores.

Epic's trial against Google is set for November 6th, but Sweeney tweeted: "If Google is ending its payments monopoly without imposing a Google Tax on third party transactions, we'll settle and be Google's friend in their new era. But if the settlement merely pays off the other plaintiffs while leaving the Google Tax in place, we'll fight on. Consumers only benefit if antitrust enforcement not only opens up markets, but also restores price competition." The exact amount Google must pay and any necessary changes required have yet to be disclosed, but could be made public at an October 12th hearing.