US states accuse Google of app store monopoly

    Google is facing lawsuits from dozens of US states accusing the tech giant of abusing its power when it comes to downloading Android mobile apps. Photo: AFP

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    Google is facing lawsuits from dozens of US states accusing the tech giant of abusing its power when it comes to downloading Android mobile apps. Photo: AFP

    Dozens of US states have joined forces in a lawsuit filed Wednesday, accusing Google of abusing its power to download Android mobile apps.

    The controversy surrounding the Play Store online store for apps and other digital content for Android smartphones comes as the power of Big Tech companies comes under increasing pressure from regulators and lawsuits.

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    “We are suing to end Google’s illegal monopoly power and finally give a voice to millions of consumers and business owners.” said Attorney General Letitia James, the leader of the dispute.

    “The company has ensured that hundreds of millions of Android users turn to Google and Google alone for the millions of apps they can choose to download to their phones and tablets.

    The lawsuit, backed by 37 attorneys, alleges Google used anti-competitive tactics to discourage the distribution of Android apps to stores outside the Play Store, where its payment system collects commissions for transactions.

    Google dismissed the suit as worthless, citing in detail the ways in which the Play Store helped app developers thrive by providing security for Android device users.

    “Android and Google Play provide openness and options that simply no other platforms do,” said Wilson White, Google’s senior director of public policy.

    “The complaint is full of inflammatory language designed to distract from the fact that our rules for Android and Google Play benefit consumers.” The lawsuit alleges that Google was introduced as an “intermediary” between application developers and consumers.

    Meanwhile, a verdict is expected in a federal lawsuit in which the manufacturer Fortnite Epic Games accused Apple of abusing its monopoly power in its App Store. Apple strictly controls the App Store, which is the only portal to applications or other content for accessing iPhone and other iOS-supported devices.

    In contrast, people with Android mobile devices can download applications outside of the Play Store. A similar coalition of attorneys general filed a lawsuit in December accusing Google of having a monopoly power over Internet search and related ads.

    Attorneys general are asking the court to relax Google’s grip on the Play Store and deliver “unfair profits” made by the Silicon Valley giant from ads, shopping or other media. “The state’s case against Google concerns application developers, who probably would not have mass distribution or profits without the extensive Play Store distribution advantage, wanting to change the rules during the flow,” said its director. Competitive Enterprise Institute Jessica Melugin.

    “Not only are there already alternatives for downloading these applications to Android devices, but consumers are also benefiting from the security, privacy and convenience of centralized payment systems.

    A U.S. congressional panel in June passed legislation that would lead to an extensive review of antitrust laws and give more power to regulators to dismantle large technology companies, targeting Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.

    The actions come amid growing concerns about the power of large technology companies, which are increasingly dominating key economic sectors and have seen steady growth during the pandemic.

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