Google has settled an antitrust lawsuit with the attorney generals from all 50 US states in addition to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. As part of the agreement, the tech giant will pay $700 million, with the majority—$630 million—allocated to a fund benefiting consumers in accordance with a Court-approved plan. The remaining $70 million will bolster a fund for state use.
In September, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) initiated a civil antitrust lawsuit against Google in October 2020, accusing the tech giant of monopolizing search and search advertising.
This was followed by a separate complaint from the attorneys general of 35 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. These cases later merged into one. The trial is set to scrutinize Google's “exclusive dealing arrangements” with companies like Apple and Samsung and its practice of pre-installing its services on Android devices.
Policy Changes Unveiled
In the wake of the settlement, Google introduced changes to its Play Store operations. One significant amendment simplifies the sideloading process, the method by which users install apps on Android devices via sources other than the Play Store. Google pledged to provide clear guidance about the risks associated with sideloading to first-time users downloading apps from the Internet.
Moreover, Google is advocating for greater developer autonomy by permitting the inclusion of an alternate billing option in conjunction with Google's billing system for apps targeting U.S. consumers. Consequently, app developers will have the liberty to present different pricing options within their applications, thus introducing a paradigm shift in in-app purchasing practices.
Competition and Safety Balancing Act
In its public statements, Google emphasized the importance of sustaining choice and flexibility within the Android ecosystem while maintaining robust security measures. The company expressed contentment in reaching a resolution and anticipation of the Court's approval for the enacted changes. The alterations and the financial settlement, however, are pending judicial endorsement before taking full effect.
The disclosure of Google's settlement details emerges shortly after a defeat in a separate legal battle with Epic Games. A jury sided with Epic Games in their case, affirming allegations that Google's Play Store exercises an illegal monopoly on the Android platform. Google intends to appeal the verdict.
The settlement and the juridical decision signal significant implications for Google's operations and the broader mobile software market, stirring discussions about market practices and regulation. The outcomes of these legal proceedings will likely influence the future of app store dynamics and developer autonomy across the tech industry.