The lawsuit, filed in July and settled in September, saw 36 states and districts including New York, California, Utah, Tennessee, and more take Google to court for “anticompetitive tactics to diminish and disincentivize competition in Android app distribution,” particularly targeting Google’s restriction on developers using competing app stores beyond its Play Store and highlighting the company’s 30 percent commission fee on app purchases (deemed “extravagant” in the complaint).
The news comes a week after Fortnite creator Epic Games won its own separate case against Google for anticompetitive limitations in the Play Store.
Though Google said in its statement the company was “pleased to resolve our case with the states and move forward on a settlement,” it also said it was “disappointed that the verdict did not recognize the choice and competition that our platforms enable.”
“While we are challenging that verdict and our case with Epic is far from over, we remain committed to continually improving Android and Google Play,” Google’s statement added.
What does the Google settlement mean?
The settlement means “Google will give developers that choose to sell in-app digital goods and services the option to add an alternative in-app billing system alongside Google Play’s billing system for their users. At checkout, users will be able to choose which in-app billing system to use.” Google has been piloting this User Choice Billing in the U.S. for a year, but it will now expand more broadly.
If you want to check out the 61-page settlement document, there’s plenty more in the ruling here, including removing the mandatory inclusion of the Play Store on developers’ home pages for five years, and letting developers tell customers about lower prices on their own websites or rival app stores.
Of course, the settlement also means a major payout.
“Google will pay $630 million into a settlement fund to be distributed for the benefit of consumers according to a Court-approved plan,” reads a statement published Monday. In addition, $70 million will be paid “into a fund that will be used by the states.”
Am I eligible for a Google refund?
In case you’re wondering if you’re eligible, Google will provide the settlement administrator with the names and email addresses for consumers who may be covered “for the purposes of providing notice, processing requests for exclusion, and administering payment.”
So, you might hear from the settlement administrator, depending on whether you’re deemed eligible. According to CNN, citing the settlement, “Each eligible consumer will receive at least $2 and will receive additional payments in proportion to their Google Play spending during the period between August 16, 2016 and September 30, 2023.”
What about Google’s commission fee?
Notably, the lawsuit doesn’t really impact Google’s 30 percent commission fee that much — The Verge confirmed with a Google spokesperson that those using their own payment system through the expanded User Choice Billing get a discount of just 4 percent off this commission fee. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney posted on Twitter/X about the settlement, highlighting the reality of User Choice Billing, calling it “an unfortunate outcome.”
“The settlement endorses Google’s 30% monopoly rent imposition, by replacing the anticompetitive Google Play Billing tie with a new anticompetitive Google-imposed ‘user choice billing’ tie which adds a useless 26% Google Tax for payments they don’t process,” wrote Sweeney.
Again, it ain’t over.