Google’s ironclad grip over Android app distribution faces a seismic legal threat. A unanimous jury verdict found the tech giant violated antitrust law through monopolistic Play Store policies. Now after years of allegations over stifled competition, Google is paying $700 million to settle litigation and rethink its approach.
The watershed lawsuit originated from Epic Games, maker of Fortnite. Epic accused Google of freezing out rival app stores and payment systems, forcing developers into restrictive terms. Google’s Play Store accounts for over 95% of downloads on Android devices in the U.S.
After 3 weeks of courtroom arguments, the jury unanimously sided with Epic on 11 counts. Google stands guilty of illegally monopolizing app distribution and in-app purchases on Android through coercive Play Store rules and exorbitant commissions.
Epic declared the verdict a major win for all app makers and mobile consumers. But Google remains defiant despite the legal blow, maintaining it will appeal what it views as an unfair ruling.
Regardless, Google moved to mitigate fallout by ponying up $700 million to settle antitrust claims from a coalition of states. The deal extracts policy concessions around alternative app stores as well. It requires Google to soften Play Store guardrails that boxed out competition.
While Google downplays the scope, experts say meaningful changes could revolutionize the Android ecosystem. If Google opens the floodgates to rival platforms and payment processors, new innovations could flourish.
Of course the saga is far from over. Google promises to fight the verdict even as it pays to make problems go away. And the company braces for another lawsuit targeting its ubiquitous search business.
For now, the historic antitrust judgement against Google’s app dominance shakes the mobile world. Other tech titans are doubtless monitoring closely. Because when an industry giant like Google faces a legal reckoning over fairness in the market, there’s no telling how far the tremors might spread.