Google taken to court for antitrust breaches over Play Store
Earlier this week in the northern district of California, petitioners Dianne Bentley, Jennifer Grace, Adan Moya, Coresa Trimble and Robert Wing filed a class-action suit against search giant Google for antitrust breaches involving its Google Play Store.
The petitioners reportedly claimed, "Through its acquisition and maintenance of an unlawful monopoly, and its anticompetitive contractual restrictions imposed on app developers, Google has forced consumers to pay supra-competitive prices for app and in-app purchases on the Google Play Store."
"Google's monopolization of… the Android App Store Market and the Android In-App Payment Processing Mark was in part accomplished by Google's domination and control of the Android operating system of the related market for licensable smart mobile operating systems," they said.
The petitioners argued that because most Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) did not make their own operating system (OS), they could only use the licensed Android OS giving Google a monopoly in the market.
However, the OEMs had to pre-install the Google Play Store to make it accessible to users as it could not be downloaded. Also, app developers could not distribute alternative apps through the Google Play Store.
Android users were left with only two options: make in-app purchases through Google Play Store or purchase and download apps. The petitioners accused Google of illegally dominating the Android App Store market with its (Google) Play Store. They argued that Google was engaging in anti-competitive behavior and controlling competition to achieve and retain its monopoly in the Android App Store market.
The petitioners cited the kind of market share enjoyed by Google, lack of countervailing buying power, and prevalence of tall barriers to entry and expansion as indicators of Google's monopoly in the Android App Store market. As Apple's app store and OS were available only on Apple devices, the Google Play Store and Apple App Store were not competitors, they said. There were 2.7 million apps available on Google Play Store and Google had over 90 per cent of the Android App Store market, the petitioners informed. The number of apps belonging to the next four closest competitors did not even add up to the total number of available apps on Google Pay.
Giving some examples of Google's anti-competitive practices, the petitioners said that the Internet giant imposed a supra-competitive 30 per cent commission on the price of apps and in-app products or services purchased through the Google Play Store. Google required the OEMs to offer preferential location to its Play Store and other apps on the home screen of the device in use.
Google required OEMs to accept a bundle of apps and services that included the Google Play Store. Google limited OEMs' ability to compete with each other on the price and quality of distribution platforms for mobile apps. The petitioners alleged that the Android licensing system too imposed restrictions on OEMs. Such conduct on Google's part ultimately harmed consumers by restricting access to apps and pushing up prices.
The petitioners claimed Google was violating the Sherman Act in terms of unlawful monopoly and trade restraints. Milberg Phillips Grossman LLP represented the petitioners.