Selangor Journal
A sign is pictured outside a Google office near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S., May 8, 2019. Photo taken May 8, 2019. — Picture by REUTERS

Google to pay US$700mln to US consumers, states in Play store settlement

WASHINGTON, Dec 19 —Alphabet’s Google has agreed to pay US$700 million and to allow for greater competition in its Play app store, according to the terms of an antitrust settlement with U.S. states and consumers disclosed on Monday in a San Francisco federal court.

Google will pay US$630 million into a settlement fund for consumers and US$70 million into a fund that will be used by states, according to the settlement, which still requires a judge’s final approval.

The settlement said eligible consumers will receive at least US$2 and may get additional payments based on their spending on Google Play between Aug. 16, 2016 and Sept. 30, 2023.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, joined the settlement.

Google was accused of overcharging consumers through unlawful restrictions on the distribution of apps on Android devices and unnecessary fees for in-app transactions. It did not admit wrongdoing.

Lead plaintiff Utah and other states announced the settlement in September, but the terms were kept confidential ahead of Google’s related trial with “Fortnite” maker Epic Games. A California federal jury last week agreed with Epic that parts of Google’s app business were anticompetitive.

Wilson White, Google vice president for government affairs and public policy, in a statement said the settlement “builds on Android’s choice and flexibility, maintains strong security protections, and retains Google’s ability to compete with other (operating system) makers, and invest in the Android ecosystem for users and developers.”

The company said it was expanding the ability of app and game developers to provide consumers an alternative billing option for in-app purchases next to Play’s billing system. Google said it had piloted “choice billing” in the US for more than a year.

As part of the settlement, Google said it would simplify users’ ability to download apps directly from developers.

Lawyers for the states in their court filing said the settlement terms “will offer significant, meaningful, long-lasting relief for consumers throughout the country.”

The states’ attorneys said “no other US antitrust enforcer has yet been able to secure remedies of this magnitude from Google” or another major digital platform.

Epic sued for an injunction, but not money damages, and the company next year is expected to make its own proposal to the judge hearing the cases, U.S. District Judge James Donato, about potential changes to Google’s Play Store.

In a statement, Epic public policy head Corie Wright said the states’ settlement “did not address the core of Google’s unlawful and anticompetitive behavior.”

Wright said Epic will press at the next phase of its trial “to truly open up the Android ecosystem.”

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, in a post on social media platform X, said the states could have won a larger damages amount “if they’d stayed in the fight a few weeks longer.”

Google faces other lawsuits challenging its search and digital advertising practices. It has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.

— Reuters

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