Google Agrees to $700 Million USD Antitrust Settlement in U.S.

Google has announced an antitrust settlement of $700 million USD ($937 million CAD) with various U.S. state attorney generals, a move that underscores its commitment to evolving Android and Google Play amidst ongoing competition and regulatory feedback, it said in reaction to the decision.

This development follows a recent trial where Google expressed disappointment over the verdict not fully recognizing the choice and competition facilitated by its platforms. Despite challenging the verdict and the ongoing case with Epic, Google remains dedicated to improving Android and Google Play.

The settlement, initially reached in September and now publicly disclosed, aims to reinforce Android’s flexibility and choice while maintaining robust security and Google’s competitive edge in the OS market. Key elements of the settlement include:

  • Enhanced App Store Choice: Google has historically allowed alternative app stores on Android devices. The settlement clarifies that Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) can continue offering users the choice of Google Play or other app stores. Android 14 introduces features to improve the functionality of third-party app stores and simplify app updates.
  • Streamlined Sideloading with Security Focus: Unlike iOS (nice jab at Apple), Android offers sideloading, allowing users to download apps directly from developers’ websites. As part of the settlement, Google will simplify the sideloading process and revise the language informing users about potential risks associated with downloading apps from the web.
  • Expanded User Choice Billing: Developers can now offer an alternative billing option alongside Google Play’s system for U.S. users, who can choose their preferred payment method for in-app purchases. This expansion builds on a pilot program in the U.S.
  • Open Communication on Pricing: Google Play has always allowed developers more freedom in communicating with customers about subscription offers or lower-cost options available outside the app. The settlement further enables developers to present different pricing options within the app for digital purchases.
  • Settlement Fund Contributions: Google will contribute $630 million USD to a consumer benefit fund and $70 million USD to a fund used by the states.

This announcement was made by Wilson White, VP of Government Affairs & Public Policy at Google, on December 18. The settlement highlights Google’s efforts to provide choices and opportunities for innovation in the Android and Google Play ecosystem, distinguishing it from competitors, explained White. The proposed changes, pending formal court approval, are expected to benefit millions of developers and billions of users worldwide, says Google.

The antitrust lawsuit was launched back in July 2021. “Google has served as the gatekeeper of the internet for many years, but, more recently, it has also become the gatekeeper of our digital devices — resulting in all of us paying more for the software we use every day,” said New York’s Attorney General Letitia James, at the time. “Once again, we are seeing Google use its dominance to illegally quash competition and profit to the tune of billions.”

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