Fortnite Maker Epic Games Moots Google Play Store Reforms After Antitrust Win

Fortnite video game maker Epic Games has urged a federal judge in California to force Google to open up its Play Store to greater competition after a jury found the U.S. tech giant had abused its power as a gatekeeper for apps on the Android mobile platform.

Epic made its proposal in a court filing on Thursday to U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco, seeking in part to require Google Play Store to allow users more freedom in how they download apps and to limit Google's ability to make agreements with device makers to restrict preloading of competing app stores.

Epic said in a statement on Friday it should be allowed to bring its Epic Games Store to Android "without delays and barriers." The company also said consumers and developers must have greater control over "how they make and offer in-app purchases, free from anticompetitive fees and restrictions."

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Responding to Epic, Google in a statement on Friday said the court filing "shows again that [Epic] simply wants the benefits of Google Play without having to pay for it." Google said "Android is an open mobile platform that faces fierce competition" from Apple and other competitors.

Donato presided over a blockbuster antitrust trial that ended in a jury verdict against Alphabet-owned Google in December.

Donato is not bound to grant Epic's proposal, and a hard fight is likely before any permanent order on Google is issued. But the new filing sets up the next key test of Google's ability to impose controls on app developers and consumers.

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The jury in December said Google unlawfully impeded developers' ability to freely distribute their apps outside of Google's Play Store and kept an overly tight grip on payments for transactions within apps. Google imposes an industry standard 30% commission on many apps and in-app purchases.

Google has defended its app store practices and denied any wrongdoing. The company has a May 3 deadline to respond to Epic's proposal. Epic's lawsuit did not demand monetary damages.

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has said Google's December settlement did not go far enough to restore Play Store competition.

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North Carolina-based Epic Games is a privately held company, in which China's Tencent owns a 40% stake and Walt Disney owns a stake of about 9% as of February.

Google separately in December agreed to pay $700 million to resolve state and consumer allegations over its Play Store restrictions.

The company said then it was expanding the ability of app and game developers to provide consumers an alternative billing option for in-app purchases. Google said it had piloted "choice billing" in the U.S. for more than a year.

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Google has said it will appeal the December antitrust jury verdict, and it can separately challenge any reforms ordered by Donato, which could stretch the case for years.

A similar case Epic lodged against Apple in 2020, challenging its grip on its App Store, is still being fought after a non-jury trial and appeals.

© Thomson Reuters 2024

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