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36 U.S. States Sue Google Alleging Antitrust Violations in Play Store Fees

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In what Google calls “a meritless lawsuit,” 36 US states and Washington, D.C., are taking legal action over claims of monopolization in the Google Play Store.

A group of 36 states and Washington, D.C., sued Google on Wednesday in an antitrust case challenging the company’s control over its Android app store, reads a new Reuters report, opening a new front in regulators’ attempts to rein in the search giant.

The antitrust lawsuit focuses on the Google Play Store’s policy of charging app developers a 30 percent commission on digital content or subscription purchases. The complaint alleges that Google shut-out potential competitors in Android app distribution through exclusionary contracts, technical barriers and “misleading” security warnings.

“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,” New York’s Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Once again, we are seeing Google use its dominance to illegally quash competition and profit to the tune of billions.”

Google publicly responded to the legal action in a blog post, denying any unfair monopolization and calling it “a meritless lawsuit that ignores Android’s openness.”

“The complaint is peppered with inflammatory language designed to distract from the fact that our rules on Android and Google Play benefit consumers,” wrote Wilson White, Google’s Senior Director of Public Policy. “We stand behind apps distributed on Google Play, so we do have some rules to keep the store secure, protect privacy and prevent fraud.”

Google said the transaction fees are comparable to those in the Amazon, Apple and Samsung app stores. However, Apple in particular has also been under the spotlight recently for its App Store practices.

“This lawsuit isn’t about helping the little guy or protecting consumers. It’s about boosting a handful of major app developers who want the benefits of Google Play without paying for it,” White concluded. “Doing so risks raising costs for small developers, impeding their ability to innovate and compete, and making apps across the Android ecosystem less secure for consumers.”

Read Google’s entire response over at their blog.

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