Details now released in major settlement between Google and state AGs to avoid trial in antitrust lawsuit

 December 21, 2023

The details have now been released of a major $700 million settlement that helped Big Tech giant Google avoid a trial in November that stemmed from an antitrust lawsuit filed by 50 state attorneys general, Breitbart reported.

That revealed settlement, in which Google agreed to make numerous but relatively minor changes to the monopolistic way in which it operates its Android mobile app store, follows in the wake of Google being found guilty in a separate trial early this month that involved mobile app developer Epic Games.

Critics have charged that the settlement doesn't go nearly as far as needed to disrupt and prevent Google's monopolistic practices, and there is now some speculation that the Biden administration may need to get involved in the legal disputes against the massive tech company that controls broad swathes of the online world.

Google and state AGs first settled lawsuit in September

Courthouse News first reported in September that a settlement had been reached in the antitrust lawsuit brought against Google by 50 state attorneys general who had accused the company of exploiting its monopoly power to favor its own apps over those from rivals and third parties, inflate the prices of app store and in-app purchases, and exert excessive control over users of the Android mobile platform.

That settlement resulted in a scheduled trial for November being vacated but still needed to obtain the final approval of the judge to take full effect.

It appears that the agreement has now been approved and the details of the settlement have been revealed, but not everybody is pleased with the admittedly limited and time-constrained final result.

Settlement includes $700 million payout and numerous small and time-limited changes

According to a breakdown of the settlement agreement by tech website TheVerge, Google agreed to pay out $700 million, of which $629 million will be distributed to users who overpaid for app store and in-app purchases, $70 million will be split amongst the plaintiff states, and $1 million will go toward administration of the settlement.

The agreement also stipulates more than a dozen changes that Google must make to the way that it operates its Android platform and Google Play app store, though most of those purported concessions are relatively minor or scheduled to expire within four to seven years.

Some of those changes will ostensibly allow rivals and third-party developers to install apps on Android devices without going through Google Play, provide developers and users with alternative billing systems for in-app purchases, and relax some of the prior exclusivity demands Google had imposed on developers and users, among other things.

Google praises settlement as great for consumers and developers

Of course, Google heralded the settlement agreement as a good thing in a blog post that spun everything in a positive light and proclaimed that it was "Reaffirming choice and openness on Android and Google Play."

"This settlement builds on Android's choice and flexibility, maintains strong security protections, and retains Google’s ability to compete with other OS makers, and invest in the Android ecosystem for users and developers," the blog asserted.

"Android and Google Play provide choices and opportunities for innovation that other platforms we compete against simply don't -- from allowing for multiple app stores and avenues of app distribution to piloting new ways for users to pay for in-app purchases," the post concluded. "We're pleased to reach an agreement that builds on that foundation and we look forward to making these improvements that will help evolve Android and Google Play for the benefit of millions of developers and billions of people around the world."

App developer disputes positive takes on settlement

Yet, though uninvolved in the state-led antitrust lawsuit, Epic Games released a statement on the settlement, noting that the AGS had settled for just $700 million after initially suing for $10.5 billion, and that there would be a "one-time payout with no true relief for consumers or developers."

The app developer, which anticipates further litigation against Google despite its trial victory earlier this month, further observed that consumers will still be forced to overpay for apps and in-app purchasers, that developers will still face a multitude of restrictions, and that the "deceptively-labeled 'user choice billing' system" provided no real alternatives for users and developers to escape from Google's crushing grasp.

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