US federal judge says class-action lawsuit targeting Google Play should be decertified, amidst broader antitrust fight
A US federal judge has said he plans to remove the class-action status of a lawsuit representing 21 million users that claims Google overcharged them on its app marketplace Google Play.
The ruling by US District Judge James Donato in San Francisco, which has not yet been finalised, would mean a significant reduction in potential damages faced by the Alphabet subsidiary over app charges.
The consumers bringing the case said they were overcharged because of Google’s efforts to sustain an alleged monopoly on app purchases. Google has denied wrongdoing.
The case is part of a wide-ranging antitrust dispute that also includes cases filed by the attorneys general of 38 states and the District of Columbia, and companies including Epic Games and Match Group.
‘Not supported by the evidence’
Donato said that testimony by an expert for the consumer plaintiffs was “based on assumptions about the Play Store apps that are not supported by the evidence” and would be disallowed.
The elimination of this testimony removed an “essential element” of the consumers’ argument for class-action certification, which Donato initially granted in November 2022.
As a result his earlier decision to grant class-action status should be thrown out, Donato said in the Monday decision.
He said he could not unilaterally decertify the decision because Google is appealing the November order in federal appeals court.
App store claims
He told lawyers for Google and the plaintiffs to try to resolve the appeals issue before a hearing scheduled for 7 September.
The 2021 consumer complaint included users from 17 states who are not represented in the 2021 lawsuit against Google brought by state attorneys general.
Google still faces a 6 November trial over the claims by Epic and the attorneys general, who represent nearly 70 million consumers.
The state attorneys general said in their complaint that Google used anticompetitive tactics to keep out competition and force developers to use the Google Play store to reach consumers, and then collected an “extravagant” commission of up to 30 percent on app purchases.