37 Attorneys General Take Aim at Google in Latest Antitrust Suit

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, along with co-lead attorneys general from New York, Tennessee, and North Carolina, have filed a lawsuit contending that Google LLC engages in illegal monopolistic and exclusionary conduct through Google Play Store policies and practices. The Northern District of California complaint, filed on Wednesday, sets forth seven Section 1 and 2 Sherman Act causes of action in addition to state law claims.

The attorneys general accuse Google of using its market dominance to unfairly restrict competition, thereby limiting consumer choice and driving up app prices in the Google Play Store, the platform through which it distributes Android operating system-compatible applications. The suit explains that domestically, the Google Play Store distributes over 90% of all Android apps, while competitor Android app stores hold no more than 5% of the market apiece. 

Additionally, Google allegedly forces consumers to pay commissions of up to 30% for apps and in-app content distributed through the Play Store. That rate, the states contend, is supracompetitive, or much higher than it would be were Google not in possession of illegal monopoly power.

Were things otherwise, they averred, “there would be two main channels for U.S. consumers to obtain apps on an open Android operating system: (i) direct downloading and installation of apps or app stores; and (ii) apps or app stores pre-installed on devices by device manufacturers and/or mobile network operators.”

The 144-page complaint also touches on an earlier promise made by Google to app developers and device manufacturers that it would keep Android, acquired in 2005, “open source,” enabling developers to create apps and distribute them without red tape. “Google has not kept its word,” the attorneys general said.

The allegations are not the first of their kind. Google has faced antitrust suits from another coalition of states, challenging its display advertising market dominance, private plaintiffs, and the Department of Justice. The states’ advertising lawsuit remained in the Eastern District of Texas after the court denied Google’s motion to transfer venue in May. 

For Epic Games Inc. and classes of developers and consumers, a July 22 motion to dismiss hearing has been postponed due to some plaintiffs’ plan to revise their complaints in multidistrict litigation ongoing in San Francisco, California. The Department of Justice’s case is proceeding through discovery after Google answered the allegations in January.