Missouri joins antitrust lawsuit against Google over Android app store
Missouri joined 35 other states and Washington, D.C. in an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Thursday, alleging the tech giant is exerting too much control over its Android app store.
The bipartisan suit is the latest litigation against tech companies by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who has made suing companies like Google and Facebook a priority of his term and a hallmark of his U.S. Senate campaign. Schmitt also joined a separate multi-state suit against Google in December involving online advertising.
In a statement Thursday, Schmitt said Google had limited small app developers by requiring them to pay commissions on in-app purchases and limiting competitors who seek to distribute apps.
"As we've repeatedly seen and as we allege in our lawsuit, big tech companies like Google have leveraged their massive, dominant market position to stymie smaller companies and drive out competition, all while lining their own pockets to the tune of billions," Schmitt said.
Google dismissed the lawsuit as narrow and "meritless" in a company blog post Wednesday, saying that the Google Play Store "provides more openness and choice than others."
"The complaint is peppered with inflammatory language designed to distract from the fact that our rules on Android and Google Play benefit consumers," wrote Wilson White, senior director of public policy at Google.
At the heart of the lawsuit, filed in a California federal court, is the company's plan to force all Google Play Store app developers to pay a 30 percent commission on digital content, starting in September. It will also start more strictly enforcing its policy that app developers must use Google Billing, the company's payment system, for Google Play apps — a policy that has long been in place but will be more strictly enforced going forward.
Google Play is the default app store installed on Android devices, but users can download other digital marketplaces, including those from Samsung or Amazon. However, Google does not allow users to download those other app stores from the Google Play Store, according to the lawsuit, and limits advertising from those competing stores on its search engine or YouTube.
The tech giant has been the subject of a flurry of litigation, several of which involve the app store and many with the support of a majority of U.S. states. The suits all seek to regulate and break apart Google, which has a 92 percent search engine market share and whose parent company Alphabet currently has a $1.7 trillion market cap.