US States Investigating Google App Store Practices

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Group of US states may hit Google with fourth government antitrust lawsuit, this time focusing on allegedly anti-competitive practices in its Play Store

Several US states are reportedly pursuing what could turn into a fourth government lawsuit against Google, this time focusing on its Play Store policies.

The lawsuit could be filed in February or March, Reuters reported, citing two sources.

Bloomberg also reported the possible lawsuit last month, saying it could be filed as early as January.

Two groups of US states and the US Justice Department have filed lawsuits against Google since October of last year, all alleging violations of competition law.

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The other lawsuits focus on Google’s dominance in search and advertising, however, while the latest potential action centres on Google’s Play Store.

Utah, North Carolina and New York are leading the probe, with other states reportedly expected to join in.

Unlike Apple, Google allows users of its Android smartphones to install competing app stores, although the Play Store is far more widely used than rivals from Amazon, Samsung, Huawei and others.

Google’s terms are similar to those of Apple, such as taking a 30 percent cut of in-app payments and requiring most apps on its app store to use its payment system.

Those policies have drawn criticism from developers, who have called the arrangements an abuse of market dominance.

Competition

Google said its policies allow app store competition on Android, giving developers flexibility.

“Most Android devices ship with at least two app stores preinstalled, and consumers are able to install additional app stores,” said Sameer Samat, vice president of Android and Google Play, in a statement.

“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.”

Last August Epic Games, maker of the popular game Fortnite, sued Apple and Google over their “exorbitant” 30 percent cut of in-app purchases.

The US Justice Department is investigating Apple over its app store policies.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit against Google focuses on its search and search advertising dominance, while a lawsuit by 10 US states led by Texas, filed in December, focuses on advertising.

A lawsuit by a second group of US state attorneys general, also filed last month, targets Google’s alleged efforts to extend its dominance in search to other markets, such as virtual assistants.

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