Fortnite creator Epic Games is taking Google to court in San Francisco, alleging antitrust violations tied to Google’s Play Store. This legal confrontation unfolds as Google simultaneously contends with another antitrust lawsuit from the Department of Justice in Washington D.C., scrutinizing some of its fundamental business operations.
Epic Games has been on a legal crusade to dismantle the app store models of behemoths like Apple and Google. Despite a setback in a similar lawsuit against Apple in 2021 and a subsequent failed appeal, Epic is now petitioning the Supreme Court to consider its case, as per The Financial Times. The distinct circumstances surrounding the Google lawsuit, however, inject an element of uncertainty regarding the potential verdict.
The core of Epic’s argument against Google
Epic accuses Google of infringing on U.S. antitrust laws by obstructing competing app stores on its Android platform. This obstruction, Epic argues, effectively compels app developers to utilize Google’s in-house payment system, leading to inflated fees. The timing is critical for Google, which has just settled related lawsuits with Match and several U.S. state attorneys-general.
Google’s defense and the flexibility of Android
In its defense, Google points to the relative openness of its app store policies compared to Apple’s. Google allows other app stores on Android phones and permits direct app downloads from the web. It also lets developers choose different payment processors for in-app transactions, a policy known as “user choice billing,” which is in effect in 35 countries.
The legal landscape and potential outcomes
As the trial progresses, with a jury rather than a judge delivering the verdict, the outcome remains unpredictable. The presiding judge has also allowed Epic to inform the jury about Google’s failure to preserve certain employee communications.
The trial is expected to last until mid-December and will include testimonies from Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. Analysts suggest that Google may have the upper hand due to its more open ecosystem and previous settlements. However, the unpredictable nature of jury trials and the judge’s openness to significant antitrust remedies leave the door open for a range of potential consequences for Google, including stringent sanctions.