Google Faces Epic Legal Battle With Fortnite Creator Over App Store Antitrust Allegations

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Google and Epic Games head to court this week in a battle over whether Google's digital payment processing system in its Play Store has been illegally increasing prices for consumers and developers. The epic battle begins with Google still embroiled in a US antitrust trial.

Last week, Google posted an open letter addressing its legal issues with Epic Games. The letter began by saying that "Android has made phones more affordable, provided consumers with more options, and enabled developers to thrive." It then pointed out that Epic had already attempted to sue Apple twice and lost twice. The tech giant remarked that Epic's claims are "baseless," and "The truth is that Epic simply wants all the benefits that Android and Google Play provide without having to pay for them."

On the other side of the coin, Epic, which recently confirmed laying off around 16% of its workforce, claimed in its letter to the US State Attorneys General that the only way to settle the matter is for Google to address three fundamental issues. The first is to open the Android app distribution market. The second, open the Android in-app payment solution market. The third is to prevent circumvention of the above remedies. Epic claims that if Google were to achieve all three of what it refers to as "pillars," it would ensure Google's anticompetitive conduct had ended.

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While Google claims that Epic lost twice in its battles with Apple, a federal judge did side with the game company on many accounts in the 2021 trial. The judge and an appeals court concluded that Apple should allow apps to provide links to other payment options. That decision alone could cost Apple and Google 15% to 30% commissions that both tech companies collect on digital purchases made within mobile apps. Apple is currently appealing that part of the ruling to the US Supreme Court.

Google claims that if Epic wins, it could make Android phones less safe due to a lack of basic protections against sideloaded apps, making it impossible for it to compete with Apple's iPhone. Epic claims that if it wins, it will end Google's and Apple's monopoly each has created through what many refer to as Google Tax and Apple Tax.

The Google trial differs from Apple's in that a jury of ten people will decide Google's fate and not a judge. A jury trial could play out in Epic's favor if jurors find some of Google's tactics nefarious in nature.

The court battle between Google and Epic begins today, November 6, 2023. Judge Donato instructed jurors to prepare for the trial to last about five weeks, with a break on Thanksgiving.