California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday announced a lawsuit against Google, accusing the tech giant of violating state and federal antitrust laws through its Google Play store.
The suit alleges Google has specifically violated the federal Sherman Antitrust Act and California's Cartwright Act, among other statutes, by entering into agreements with smartphone manufacturers to guarantee that Google Play remains the primary, or in some cases the only, app store.
It also alleges that Google violated other state and federal laws by requiring apps distributed on Google Play to use Google Play's billing system for in-app purchases and refusing to distribute apps on Google Play that use their own billing system.
Furthermore, the suit alleges that through exclusionary agreements with phone manufacturers, Google demands up to a 30 percent cut from third-party app developers for using its Google Play store and in-app purchases. The 30 percent commission is ten times higher than other prices through third-party payment systems, according to Bonta.
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"Google has violated the trust of Android phone customers by limiting consumer choice and raking in outrageous commissions on app developers. Android customers are effectively stuck using the Google Play store for apps, where they pay a premium," Bonta said in a statement. "This anticompetitive behavior also stings consumers by limiting their options. A more competitive app marketplace could open innovation, leading to more choice, better payment processing, improved customer service, and enhanced data security."
The lawsuit is part of multistate action being brought against Google by Bonta and 36 other attorney generals from all over the U.S.
Google Play Store comes with nearly every Android device and can't be deleted.
Although customers have the option of bypassing the Google Play store and installing apps directly from developers or purchasing apps from competing marketplaces, prosecutors accuse Google of trying to impede the process through a series "often misleading" safety warnings and permission screens.
In response, in a blog post on Wednesday, Google denied the allegations and called the legal action "meritless."
"Choice has always been a core tenet of Android. Device makers and carriers can preload competing app stores alongside Google Play on their devices. In fact, most Android devices ship with two or more app stores preloaded. And popular Android devices such as the Amazon Fire tablet come preloaded with a competitive app store and no Google Play store," Google said.
Google further said that customers do indeed have the option to download apps from developer's website. Additionally, Google defended its centralized billing system, which according to Google, protects customers from fraud and gives them an easy way to track purchases in one place.
"This lawsuit isn't about helping the little guy or protecting consumers. It's about boosting a handful of major app developers who want the benefits of Google Play without paying for it. Doing so risks raising costs for small developers, impeding their ability to innovate and compete, and making apps across the Android ecosystem less secure for consumers," Google said.