Google loses US monopoly lawsuit against Fortnite maker over its app store fees 

Epic Games has won a court case against Google for stifling competition and abusing its dominance to charge unfair fees

A San Francisco court jury has decided that Google’s Android app store has been protected by anti-competitive practices that have damaged smartphone consumers and software developers. 

Google’s Play Store is the main place where hundreds of millions of people around the world download and install apps that work on smartphones powered by Google’s Android software.

Epic Games, the maker of the popular Fortnite video game, filed a lawsuit against Google three years ago, alleging that the internet search giant has been abusing its power to protect its Play Store from competition, enabling it to overcharge developers and consumers.

Consumer champion Liz Coll has filed a similar legal action on behalf of UK consumers, she said:

‘I’m very pleased the jury in a US court has condemned Google’s practices in its app store. We look forward to presenting similar arguments before a UK tribunal as we seek compensation for UK consumers who have spent years overpaying Google for use of its app store.’

Colls £920m claim accuses Google of overcharging customers for buying apps and making in-app purchases. This case goes to trial in autumn 2025.

Excessive Play Store charges

Google collects a commission ranging from 15% to 30% on digital transactions completed within apps.

Apple does the same in its iPhone app store. Apple won in a similar case that Epic brought against the iPhone app store, but that 2021 trial was decided by a federal judge in a ruling that is under appeal at the US Supreme Court.

The nine-person jury in the Play Store case judged Google’s app store practices as preventing viable competition that enabled it to charge excessive fees of up to 30% to developers, fees which have been passed onto consumers. 

Epic Games chief executive Tim Sweeney said: “Victory over Google! After 4 weeks of detailed court testimony, the California jury found against the Google Play monopoly on all counts. The Court’s work on remedies will start in January,” 

The US judge will now determine what steps Google will have to take to unwind its illegal behaviour in the Play Store. The judge indicated he will hold hearings on the issue during the second week of January.

Google says it will appeal lawsuit

Google plans to appeal against the verdict, according to a statement from Wilson White, the company’s vice president of government affairs and public policy.

‘Android and Google Play provide more choice and openness than any other major mobile platform,’ he said.

More than 95% of apps are distributed through the Play Store. Depending on how the judge enforces the jury’s verdict, Google could lose billions of dollars in annual profit generated from its Play Store commissions.

The company’s main source of revenue – digital advertising tied mostly to its search engine, Gmail and other services – will not be directly affected by the trial’s outcome.

Challenges to big tech dominance

An Epic statement said: ‘The evidence presented in this case demonstrates the urgent need for legislation and regulations that address Apple and Google strangleholds over smartphones.’

The tech giant – which earned $283 billion (£228 billion) in revenue last year – has also been on trial in the US illegally abusing its power in online search to throttle competition. This has been billed as the biggest challenge to tech power in decades.

In the UK, the Digital Markets and Competition Bill promises new legislation that would give the UK competition watchdog more power to hand down hefty fines to global companies like Google, Apple and Amazon of up to 10% of their global turnover.

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8.9m Playstation customers may have overpaid for games or in-app purchases and be owed hundreds of pounds in compensation. Sign up here for more information.