Google is expected to face Play Store antitrust claims from US states soon – sources

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WASHINGTON, June 22 (Reuters) – A group of attorneys general could take legal action against Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google as early as next week, accusing the search and advertising giant of violating the antitrust law by managing its mobile application store according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The scheduled trial follows complaints from app developers about Google’s management of its Play Store for Android devices, according to a source. The trial has been ongoing since last year and has already been delayed, but appears close again, the sources said.

The state attorneys general investigation is being led by Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina and New York. It is not known how many states will participate. Read more

Two sources said the case would likely be taken to federal court in Northern California, where related cases are being heard. This includes a lawsuit that video game maker Epic Games Inc brought against Google last year, accusing it of having anti-competitive rules on app stores. He is expected to be tried in 2022.

There are also two class actions offered on the Play Store before the same judge. If states want to participate in depositions and other pre-trial activities, they should file their cases fairly quickly, a source said.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Epic are awaiting the verdict of a similar lawsuit in California after a lawsuit that ended last month. Read more

A Google spokesperson defended its app store as being open.

“Android is the only major operating system that allows users to download apps from multiple app stores. In fact, most Android devices come with two or more app stores preinstalled. They can also install app stores or additional apps directly from their browsers if they choose, the spokesperson said.

Google was originally seen as more open in the way it ran its app store than Apple, but recently tightened the rules and enforced those rules.

The lawsuit is expected to focus on Google’s requirement that certain apps use the company’s payment tools to sell subscriptions and content and pay Google up to 30% of sales, according to two sources.

App makers like music streaming service Spotify Technology SA (SPOT.N) and dating services giant Match Group (MTCH.O), which owns the Tinder app, have long accused Google, as well as Apple, of to be anti-competitive by requiring mandatory revenue sharing.

This latest trial is set at a time of unusually vigorous debate over whether federal enforcement of antitrust laws is too lax. Many people, including Senator Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the antitrust panel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have pushed for stricter enforcement.

Google is already facing a federal lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice last year and related antitrust cases brought by two separate groups of attorneys general. One is Texas-led and focused on advertising, while the other targets Google’s purported efforts to expand its search dominance into new markets, like voice assistants. Read more

Reporting by Diane Bartz, Paresh Dave and Karen Freifeld. Editing by Jonathan Weber and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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