Epic scores win over Google in court

Epic Games mostly lost to Apple in its antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant, but it has prevailed in a similar action against Google: a jury found Google illegally exploited its monopoly of app distribution and in-app payments. Sean Hollister at The Verge:

After just a few hours of deliberation, the jury unanimously answered yes to every question put before them — that Google has monopoly power in the Android app distribution markets and in-app billing services markets, that Google did anticompetitive things in those markets, and that Epic was injured by that behavior. They decided Google has an illegal tie between its Google Play app store and its Google Play Billing payment services, too, and that its distribution agreement, Project Hug deals with game developers and deals with OEMs were all anticompetitive.

In addition to accusing Google of using its store to crush competition, Epic says it charged unreasonable fees of up to 30% to developers. Reuters describes it as a "stunning defeat for Google."

If the ruling holds, it has the potential to give developers more sway over how their apps are distributed and how they profit off them. … While the Play store represents a much smaller chunk of Google's revenue compared to its massively profitable search business, it is symbolically important as the central gatekeeper to billions of mobile phones and tablets.

Epic, which publishes a high-end game development engine and maintains a game-centric store of its own, released a statement describing the outcome as a "win for all developers."

Today's verdict is a win for all app developers and consumers around the world. It proves that Google's app store practices are illegal and they abuse their monopoly to extract exorbitant fees, stifle competition and reduce innovation. Over the course of the trial we saw evidence that Google was willing to pay billions of dollars to stifle alternative app stores by paying developers to abandon their own store efforts and direct distribution plans, and offering highly lucrative agreements with device manufacturers in exchange for excluding competing app stores. These deals were meant to cement Google's dominance as the only app store in town – and it worked. More than 95% of apps are distributed through the Play Store on Android.

Google plans to appeal the verdict, it says.

Though the outcome is very different to that in Epic Games v. Apple, consider that Google was accused of doing something very naughty indeed: deleting evidence.

Among the more sensational allegations were that Google had a system for deleting texts and internal messages for the purpose of concealing its anticompetitive behavior. An attorney for Epic instructed jurors on Monday that they could assume the content of the deleted messages was pertinent to the case and "would have been unfavorable to Google."