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Jury Rules Google App Store Operates as Monopoly

This March 23, 2010, file photo shows the Google logo at the Google headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
This March 23, 2010, file photo shows the Google logo at the Google headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)
Jury Rules Google App Store Operates as Monopoly
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An American jury has found that Google’s app store operates as an illegal monopoly.

The decision came in a lawsuit brought by video game company Epic Games. The jury reached the decision this week in California after a four-week trial.

Epic had argued Google uses business methods that block competition against its Google Play Store. That is where users can download apps for smartphones and other devices using the Android operating system (OS). Google owns the Android OS. Epic uses Google Play and other app stores to sell its popular game Fortnite and others.

Experts predict that if the ruling stands, it could cost Google billions of dollars in business. It could also change the way all app stores do business in the future. Google condemned the court’s decision and said it will appeal the ruling.

Android holds by far the largest share of the mobile OS market worldwide. Online data researcher Statista estimated in October that Android had a market share of 70.5 percent. The next closest competitor, Apple, held a market share of 28.8 percent.

Other companies, such as Apple, also operate app stores. Epic brought a similar lawsuit against Apple in 2021. In it, Epic argued Apple used methods in its app store that created a monopoly that blocked competition. A federal judge ruled mostly in Apple’s favor in that case. Epic has appealed that ruling.

One of the biggest issues in both cases was whether Google and Apple have the right to require developers to use the app store’s payment systems. Such systems can take up to 30 percent of a sale in commissions from app developers.

In the case of Epic vs. Apple, the judge mostly sided with Apple. But the judge did find that Apple had used some unfair business methods which violated California law. The judge ordered Apple to permit developers across the United States to add their own links to process payments within iPhone apps.

Reuters news agency reported that Google’s appeal will take place in the same court in San Francisco that decided Epic’s case against Apple. Epic’s appeal of the Apple decision is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The jury in the Epic vs. Google legal case debated for about three hours before giving its decision on Monday. It decided that Google’s control of its Play Store amounted to an illegal monopoly. The monopoly covered both Google’s app selling system and its payment processing method within the app, the jury found. Epic did not ask the court for financial damages.

Epic chief Tim Sweeney praised the court’s decision on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Victory over Google!” Sweeney wrote. In a company statement, Epic called the verdict “a win for all app developers and consumers around the world.”

Google’s vice president of government affairs and public policy, Wilson White, confirmed the company’s plan to appeal the ruling. In a statement, he said, "We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem."

White added his opinion that the Google Play Store currently offers “more choice and openness” than any other major mobile provider.

Depending on how the court’s ruling is enforced, Google could lose billions of dollars yearly in commissions on sales through the Play Store. But the company's main source of earnings, online advertising, would not be directly affected by the court’s decision.

The case now goes back to the judge in the trial, U.S. District Judge James Donato. He will hear arguments on both sides about how Google should change its business operations to improve fair competition. The judge has suggested this process could begin in the second week of January.

During those hearings, Google will be able to argue against the changes proposed by Epic. In addition, any orders established by the judge at the end could be appealed. These processes, technology experts say, could result in the case extending for many months, or possibly years.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this report for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.


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Words in This Story

monopoly – n. complete control of the entire supply of goods or of a service in a certain area or market

app – n. a small computer program that can be put onto a mobile phone or other electronic device

commission – n. a payment made to someone who sells goods that is directly related to the amount sold

verdict –n. the decision of a jury in a trial in a court of law

consumer – n. a person who buys goods or services

ecosystem – n. all the things that are part of a particular environment or situation