As well as the multimillion-dollar settlement, Google will have to make changes to how its Play Store operates for a number of years.
Following Epic Games’ victory over Google last week (11 December), the details of another antitrust settlement with the search giant have been revealed, showing Google will have to pay $700m.
First filed by more than 30 states in July 2021, the lawsuit accused Google of “unlawfully restraining trade and maintaining monopolies in the markets for Android software application distribution”.
A settlement for this case was reached in September 2023 but the details were kept confidential until after the Epic Games lawsuit came to a close.
As part of the deal, Google will pay $629m into a settlement fund for consumers and $70m into a fund that will be used by the US states. The remaining $1m will be used for settlement administration.
As well as the financial settlement, Google will make several small changes to its Play Store. For at least five years, it will simplify users’ ability to choose an alternative in-app billing system if offered and the app developer can encourage users to choose their billing services through different pricing options.
For at least seven years, it will continue to technically enable Android to allow the installation of third-party apps on mobile devices through means other than Google Play.
For at least six years, Google must allow developers to use contact information obtained inside or outside the app to communicate with users outside of the app, including to promote alternatives to Google Play’s billing system.
Wilson White, Google’s vice-president for government affairs and public policy, said Google is pleased to reach an agreement. “We look forward to making these improvements that will help evolve Android and Google Play for the benefit of millions of developers and billions of people around the world.”
The settlement follows the major Google v Epic Games case in which the jury voted that the search giant has monopoly power when it comes to its Play Store and that it has engaged in anticompetitive practices. The jury also agreed that Google has unlawfully made a link between the Google Play Store and the Google Play Billing payment services.
Corie Wright, vice-president of public policy at Epic Games said the settlement between Google and the state attorneys general means there is “no true relief for consumers or developers”.
“In Epic v Google, a jury unanimously found that Google violated the antitrust laws in its dealings with developers, potential competitors and [original equipment manufacturers]. The states’ settlement does not address the core of Google’s unlawful and anticompetitive behaviour,” he said.
“In the next phase of the case, Epic will seek meaningful remedies to truly open up the Android ecosystem so consumers and developers will genuinely benefit from the competition that US antitrust laws were designed to promote.”
In Europe, Google is also facing an investigation over its adtech practices. The European Commission sent a statement of objections earlier this year where it accused the tech company of favouring its own ad exchange in the ad selection auction.
Updated, 5.55pm, 19 December 2023: This article was updated to include a statement from Epic Games.
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