Jury Rules for Epic Games in Lawsuit Against Google

Sean Hollister, reporting for The Verge:

Three years after Fortnite-maker Epic Games sued Apple and Google for allegedly running illegal app store monopolies, Epic has a win. The jury in Epic v. Google has just delivered its verdict — and it found that Google turned its Google Play app store and Google Play Billing service into an illegal monopoly.

The jury unanimously answered yes to every question put before them — that Google has monopoly power in the Android app distribution markets and in-app billing services markets, that Google did anticompetitive things in those markets, and that Epic was injured by that behavior. They decided Google has an illegal tie between its Google Play app store and its Google Play Billing payment services, too, and that its distribution agreement, Project Hug deals with game developers and deals with OEMs were all anticompetitive. [...]

Mind you, we don’t know what Epic has actually won quite yet — that’s up to Judge James Donato, who’ll decide what the appropriate remedies might be. Epic never sued for monetary damages; it wants the court to tell Google that every app developer has total freedom to introduce its own app stores and its own billing systems on Android, and we don’t yet know how or even whether the judge might grant those wishes.

It’s certainly big news that Epic won, but as Hollister makes clear, we have no idea what this will actually mean in practice. I’m still not quite sure what Epic even wants. Android already supports third-party app stores, and Epic already runs one. I think one thing Epic wants is to force Google to allow third-party app stores to be installed without any sort of warnings or friction, which would be a disaster for device security. I’ve installed the Epic Games app on Android, and the installation and permission-granting process seems perfectly reasonable to me. It just isn’t popular.

The other thing Epic wants is to be able to use its own payment processing for apps distributed through the Play Store and Apple’s App Store. Implementing such a payment circumvention scheme was what got them kicked out of both stores back in 2021.

Monday, 11 December 2023