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An Epic victory: Google found guilty of illegal monopoly in Epic lawsuit

The Epic vs Google case has reached a verdict with a unanimous jury vote finding in favour of CEO Tim Sweeney's anti-App Store crusade
An Epic victory: Google found guilty of illegal monopoly in Epic lawsuit
  • Google's dealings on Android are found to be a monopoly in court case from Epic Games
  • Google been found guilty of anticompetitive behaviours like secret revenue sharing deals

The state of play on the Google's Play Store and its ongoing justification for 30% fees have been a hotly debated topic ever since Apple won (and lost) its own fight with Fortnite maker Epic Games earlier this year.

The case raised by Epic Games centred around their belief that the 30% fee Google Play charges developers is too high, and that Google’s are leading monopoly, restricting and profiting from the route to the Android market. This will all sound familiar to those who closely followed the years-long lawsuit against Apple, but in the case against Google there has been one key difference: Google’s fate has rested in the hands of a jury.

Now, three years on from Epic’s initial suit against Google, that nine-person jury has unanimously voted in Epic’s favour to every point, confirming Google’s illegal monopoly over Android app billing and distribution. So too has Google been found guilty of anticompetitive behaviours such as seeking secret revenue sharing deals, disincentivising big developers from forming their own competing stores.

Only last week, it came out through the trial that Activision Blizzard was one such company, having considered an alliance with Epic and Supercell to create their own Android store. Ultimately, Activision Blizzard pulled out, making a deal with Google instead.

The ruling

While the Google Play Store and Google Play Billing are now officially an illegal monopoly, it is not yet clear what changes will be made or what Epic has won exactly. What is clear is that Epic wants freedom for app developers to use their own billing systems, and to implement their own stores on Android. Judge James Donato will decide on proceedings from here.

Considering far more Play Store alternatives are already available on Android than Apple, the latter got away relatively unscathed in its Epic case. But Google is looking to appeal the decision, just as its tech conglomerate neighbour did.

"We plan to challenge the verdict. Android and Google Play provide more choice and openness than any other major mobile platform. The trial made clear that we compete fiercely with Apple and its App Store, as well as app stores on Android devices and gaming consoles," said Google VP of government affairs and public policy Wilson White stated.

Epic Games, meanwhile, celebrated its victory publicly with a blog post: "Today’s verdict is a win for all app developers and consumers around the world. It proves that Google’s app store practices are illegal and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition and reduce innovation.

"Google imposes a 30% tax on developers simply because they have prevented any viable competitors from emerging to offer better deals. And Google executives acknowledged in court that their offer of a 26% rate on third party payment options is a fake choice for developers."

The journey and the jury

It’s been a long journey since Epic first sued Apple and Google in 2020 over in-app purchase fees, and almost four years on, it’s clear Google isn’t ready to tap out yet. Following the jury’s ruling, Donato has stated he does not intend to decide Google’s store fees on the company’s behalf, but even so, Google is looking to appeal.

With the tech giant’s apparent revenue deals with the industry’s big players, one has to wonder whether this all began with Epic owner Tim Sweeney not getting the deal he wanted with Google. Alternatively, perhaps he was never even offered one, or simply refused to take a deal on matter of principle. We'll likely never know for certain, but Google once offered $147 million to make Fortnite a Google Play exclusive.

In any case, Sweeney’s one-man crusade to bring down the app store gatekeepers just earned him a big victory.