Google Suffers Shock Court Defeat

John Lister's picture

Google has lost a major court battle with respect to the way people pay for mobile app services. It's a surprise verdict as Apple prevailed in an extremely similar case against the same opponent.

Both cases involved antitrust cases brought by Epic Games, which makes the hugely popular game Fortnite. In both cases, Epic complained about the way Apple and Google take a cut of payments from app developers.

In this case, Epic said Google's cut of 30 percent for apps in the official Play Store was too high. It said Google was able to set the rate because of a lack of alternative routes to distribute Android apps.

Epic argued Google had broken competition laws by forcing developers who used the Play Store to also use Google's online billing services rather than handle payments themselves.

A jury unanimously found in Epic's favor after less than four hours of deliberation. The court will now decide next month on any damages and other "remedies" for Google's unlawful behavior. That could include ordering it to change the way it does business. Google has already said it will appeal the verdict. (Source:

Surprise Verdict

The result is certainly a surprise given the verdict in a near-identical case against Apple. That case went before a judge rather than a jury, with the judge ruling in Apple's favor on nine out of 10 counts. An appeal court upheld the verdict.

In the case, the only point on which Epic prevailed involved Apple banning Epic Games from mentioning in the app itself that users could pay for additional content (such as game upgrades) using methods other than Apple's payment processing. The judge ruled that went too far.

While the basic claims are the same in both cases, there's a strong argument that Google allows more competition than Apple for developers. While being in the Play Store is certainly a significant advantage for reaching users, developers can distribute Android apps in other ways. Apple effectively has complete control over which apps users can run on iPhones and iPads.

Appeals Will Follow

The comparison of the two cases means it's tough to rule out Google winning on appeal. If not, it could mean big changes in the way Android users can access apps. It could also mean Google winds up taking a smaller cut, meaning cheaper apps, bigger revenue for developers, or both.

It's also possible Epic may try to revive the Apple case in the Supreme Court and cite the Google verdict as a reason to change the outcome. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Are you surprised by the verdict? How much control should mobile operating system operators have over the way people access apps? Would you use sources other than Google Play if they were more heavily promoted or do you prefer the reassurance of an official store?

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russoule's picture

Just so everyone is made aware, there were never any guns pointed at EPIC nor was there the use of strong-arm tactics. EPIC chose to distribute via APPLe and GOOGLE, knowing ahead of time what te rules were. Although my personal belief is that both platforms charge a ridiculous amount for useage, it is no different than paying Marriott twice as much to rent a room as to mom&pop motel. Even in the APPLE system, there is no force that makes EPIC and other developers sell to APPLE users. The price of the app should include whatever the cost of providing it amounts to. Stamping their feet and crying "ABUSE!" only shows how little these developers understand markets.

Colin Sedgwick's picture

Sorry to dis-abuse you, Although Android can side-load both Apple and Google have whats called a Monopoly. Therefore they do have a gun to your head if you want to reach the mobile audience. You forget, this is about value for money, legal thievery and blackmail.

1. Value for money - Why should they charge 30% when they are not doing the work. This is not value based, to the detriment of the public.

2. Legal Thievery - Because you have no alternative to reach the Audience they can charge what they like? Where is the Justification of pricing when you have done little or no work to receive benefit.

3. Blackmail - Do it our way and pay us for doing nothing or we will block you from selling to the public.

Really, none of this is in the best interests of the public or the developers.

Edit: For the original purchase I can accept the 30%. It's the 30% for in app purchases that I find unacceptable and the requirement these purchases are not allowed without paying a royalty to Apple/Google.The real issue is if the in app purchase is through the app store or direct from the games server.

Dennis Faas's picture

One thing to consider is the free advertising that developers get when they list their software on Apple App Store or Google Play. On the other hand, advertising through Google Ads costs an insane amount of money, plus there are bots that click on your ads and drain your budget constantly and Google won't do jack shit to automatically and properly reimburse you. Speaking from experience I paid $15+ a click on Google ads (with bots constantly clicking on my ads 50+ times in a day - you do the math). I believe my conversion cost was around $150 a lead. Therefore, 30% is very much fair in my opinion and is also a typical commission rate, even for someone to advertise and resell software on a their website (example: to resell Acronis True Image on this website).