Google to Pay $90 Million to Settle Antitrust Lawsuit Over Google Play

Rachel Curry - Author
By

Jul. 1 2022, Published 2:11 p.m. ET

In the latest move in the fight against app store monopolization, Google (GOOGL) is offering to settle an antitrust lawsuit from app developers over its Google Play commission policies. The lawsuit, which dates back to 2020, may result in small changes to Google Play in developers’ favor, not to mention a $90 million payout.

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The plaintiffs still have to agree to the settlement offer, but it’s a major maneuver in the Google Play antitrust lawsuit that reflects a wider industry practice.

Lawsuit alleges Google Play employs antitrust tactics, hurting developers

In 2020, app developers filed a lawsuit against Google over its unfair commission fees (30 percent for app and in-app purchases made through Google Play, then an industry norm). Plaintiffs also argued in the lawsuit that Google required developers to use the platform’s own billing system.

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Antitrust lawsuits allege monopolization, and developers claim Google has been operating with guardrails that keep profit from independent apps in house.

Google offers to settle with developers for $90 million

Google has created a $90 million fund that could act as a payout for some 48,000 eligible app developers (this would amount to about $1,875 per developer, if split evenly). The company hopes this fund, along with small changes to Google Play policies, will be enough to satisfy the plaintiffs.

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Google already decreased its 30-percent commission to 15 percent for developers making $1 million or less per year. That policy is currently in place through May 25, 2025. The company added, “In new versions of Android, Google will maintain certain changes implemented in Android 12 that make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices, while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place.”

Google also offered to create an “Indie Apps Corner” to promote small-scale or startup developers. Regarding its offered settlement, Google says it could help the involved parties “move forward and [avoid] years of uncertain and distracting litigation.”

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The Google Play antitrust lawsuit reflects a larger industry debate.

In 2021, companies Epic Games, Spotify, Match Group, and more formed the Coalition for App Fairness to fight anti-competitive app store practices that limit consumer freedom and create “a broken marketplace.”

Among other virtues, the Coalition for App Fairness says, “No app store owner should prohibit third parties from offering competing app stores on the app store owner’s platform, or discourage developers or consumers from using them.”

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About the Google Play antitrust lawsuit settlement offer, the coalition says, “This agreement does nothing to open up the mobile app ecosystem to competition or solve the underlying problem. Even if it’s approved, Google would maintain control over how consumers obtain apps and make purchases inside those apps, which has resulted in high fees and less innovation. This settlement makes it clear that policy solutions like the Open App Markets Act would help ensure a free and fair mobile app ecosystem.”

Developers continue to fight against Google Play, Apple App Store, and Windows Apps for transparency and equity.

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