Consumers won class-action status on Monday in a lawsuit against Google alleging anticompetitive pricing in its Google Play Store.
The suit alleges that Google “willfully and unlawfully maintained its monopoly in the Android Application Distribution Market through a series of related anticompetitive acts designed to foreclose alternative and competing Android app distribution channels.” Such acts, the plaintiffs assert, include forcing OEMs to preinstall and prominently display the Google Play Store on Android devices manufactured, sharing revenue with mobile network operators so that they will preload and prominently display the Google Play Store on all Android mobile devices distributed, and prohibiting developers who sell apps through the Google Play Store from providing apps that allow consumers to download competing app stores.
The plaintiffs assert that because Google is the dominant distribution channel for mobile Android apps, offering over three million apps, it was able to charge a commission of up to 30 percent on the price of apps and in-app purchases. This large commission, plaintiffs allege, harmed them by artificially inflating app prices.
Google had argued against class certification because it believed in part that every individual plaintiff should be made to demonstrate an injury. However, the court noted that while a class cannot be certified if it will be so overly broad as to include a substantial number of uninjured individuals, it is not a requirement that every single individual included in a class prove an injury before the class may be certified. The court was also persuaded when comparing Google’s practices to price fixing, where “price-fixing affects all market participants, creating an inference of class-wide impact even when prices are individually negotiated.”
Class-action status was granted to 21 million Google Play customers in 12 states and five U.S. territories: Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Wyoming, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands who paid for an app through the Google Play Store or made an in-app purchase through Google Play Billing on or after August 16, 2016.
The lawsuit will move forward alongside a similar lawsuit brought by multiple state attorneys general.
Lawsuit against Google over app store competition gets class-action designation, Reuters (November 28, 2022)
Google customers win class-action status in lawsuit over app store prices, Ars Technica (November 30, 2022)
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