On Thursday, Attorney General Mark Brnovich joined a bipartisan coalition of 37 states to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google over alleged illegal, anticompetitive, and unfair business practices relating to the Google Play Store for Android mobile devices and Google Billing. The States accuse Google of using its dominance to unfairly restrict competition with the Google Play Store, harming consumers by limiting choice and driving up app prices.
“I have always prioritized consumer privacy and holding big tech companies accountable,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “Google’s conduct not only stifles competition and innovation, but it also costs Android users and app developers more money. Arizona and the coalition are fighting to protect consumers and to make sure everyone plays by the rules.”
The heart of the lawsuit centers on Google’s exclusionary conduct which substantially shuts out competing app distribution channels. Google requires that app developers, that offer their apps through the Google Play Store, use Google Billing as a middleman. This arrangement forces app consumers to pay Google’s commission— up to 30 percent— on in-app purchases of digital content. This commission is much higher than what consumers would pay if they could choose from one of Google‘s competitors instead. The lawsuit alleges that Google works to discourage or prevent competition, violating federal and state antitrust laws.
When Google launched its Android OS, it originally promised to keep it an “open source” platform. The lawsuit alleges Google did not keep that promise. By promising to keep Android open, Google successfully enticed manufacturers (such as Samsung) and operators (such as Verizon) to adopt Android, and more importantly, to forgo competing with Google’s Play Store at that time. Google then shut down the Android ecosystem and relevant Android App Distribution Market as soon as it was feasible to do so, effectively trapping consumers and app developers in that ecosystem and removing any effective competition by (among other things) requiring manufacturers and operators to enter into various contractual and other restraints.
Arizona also alleges that Google engaged in conduct in violation of consumer protection laws by falsely representing that it would keep Android “open” and by issuing misleading warnings to consumers– that directly downloading an app would lead to disastrous consequences for the user and their device which also enhanced and protected Google’s monopoly position.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Arizona is part of the executive committee for the coalition. For Arizona, this case is being handled by Solicitor General Beau Roysden, Deputy Solicitor General Michael Catlett, Competition, Innovation & Privacy Unit Chief Dana Vogel, Assistant Attorney General Christopher Sloot, and Legal Assistant Project Specialist Amber Daniels.
Joining Attorney General Brnovich in this lawsuit are the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.