Google | Date Set for a Trial by Jury in Match Group and Epic Games Antitrust Case Against Google

Match Group — a dating app giant — and Fortnite maker — Epic Games, with the participation of over three dozen state attorney generals — have accused Google of harming its competition and unfairly leveraging its market dominance in terms and practices of its Google Play Store.

The plaintiffs object to the commission on in-app purchases and app sales required by Google and argue that Google has too much control over Android app distribution overall. A judge in the Northern District of California has set a date for a trial by jury — November 6th, 2023.

Apple and Google have both been sued by Epic Games back in 2020 after the company introduced a direct payment option in its game Fortnite on both its iOS and Android apps, leading to their removals from both app stores.

Epic Games then sued both app store giants for antitrust abuses. Epic was mostly unsuccessful in its case against Apple, but both companies appealed the ruling.

Epic still wants Apple accountable for its anticompetitive practices, while Apple didn’t want to alter its terms of service to allow third-party payment options, as the judge ordered.

Apple faces peril after the case escalated to the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, as the State of California and the U.S. Department of Justice are presenting additional arguments against the level of monopoly Apple currently has.

While similar to claims against Apple, Epic Games’ claims against Google must consider the differences between the iOS and Android app distribution.

While Apple allows iOS users to download apps only from its App Store, Google allows side-loading as an alternative method to install apps on Android devices.

After Google removed Fortnite from its Play Store for terms violations, Epic Games chose to distribute the game through its official website for its Android players.

Google’s Illegal Practices and Other Antitrust Cases

A part of Epic’s antitrust claim against Google focuses on alleged alternative means Google used to maintain its dominance over the market, especially “Project Hug.”

Epic argues Google paid game developers hundreds of millions of dollars and established preferential deals with various developers to keep their games on the Play Store. Google replied to this by saying,

The program is proof that Google Play competes fairly with numerous rivals for developers

Match Group also sued Google over its Play Store practices, accusing the company of charging “exorbitant fees” for developers. Google responded by saying Match just wants to avoid paying for the services it provides the company as part of its platform.

Google’s evidence wasn’t preserved as internal communications were done on Google Chat, where messages disappear after 24 hours

Looking to improve their claims against Google, Epic and Match filed to amend their complaint by adding new antitrust counts to their case in October.

Google said it was too late to file claims and asked the court to disallow these requests, but the court granted the motion to amend the complaint in November.

After learning internal communications were taking place in Google Chat, where messages automatically delete after 24 hours, a California federal judge criticized Google for not preserving it as evidence.

The U.S. District Judge James Donato said Google would face a “substantial, trial-related penalty” if the court proves the company destroyed evidence related to the trial.

I think there’s little doubt from the evidence that I’ve heard so far that Google’s chat function could in fact have contained evidence relevant … to this caseDonato

Match and Epic’s lawsuit also involves a consumer class action, seeking $4,7 billion in damages based on what they believe their consumers overpaid because of the Play Store’s fees, which the developers passed on to their customers.

The lawsuit involves the participation of 39 attorneys general representing 38 states and the District of Columbia. Since it’s uncertain if the developers would pass on any savings to their consumers if they could avoid paying fees, the number is likely to be disputed.

Last September, Google was set to pay a record fine in Europe antitrust ruling, with another notable antitrust suit being the Department of Justice lawsuit against Google over its search engine practices.

The DoJ argues that Google maintains its position as the most used search engine by illegally paying billions of dollars to Samsung, Apple, and other telecoms, so it can be the default search engine on their devices.

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