A group of state attorneys can sue Alphabet Inc’s Google as early as next week, accusing the search and advertising giant of violating the antitrust law by running its mobile app store, according to three sources familiar with the case.
The expected lawsuit follows complaints from app developers over Google’s management of its Play Store for Android devices, according to a source. The trial has been underway since last year and is already delayed but seems close again, sources said.
The investigation conducted by the state attorneys is led by Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina and New York. It is unclear how many states will participate.
Two sources said the case is likely to be brought before a federal court in Northern California, where related cases will be heard. These include a lawsuit that video game maker Epic Games Inc filed against Google last year, accusing it of having anti-competitive app store rules. It is expected to go to trial in 2022.
There are also two proposed group cases over the Play Store for the same judge. If states want to participate in deposits and other activities before the trial, they will have to file fairly quickly, a source said.
Apple Inc and Epic are awaiting sentencing in a similar lawsuit in California following a lawsuit that ended last month.
A Google spokesman defended their app store as open.
Android is the only major operating system that allows people to download apps from multiple app stores. In fact, most Android devices come with two or more app stores pre-installed. They can also install additional app stores or apps directly from their browser if they choose, ”the spokesman said.
Google was initially seen as more open in how it ran its app store than Apple, but has recently tightened the rules and increased enforcement of those rules.
The lawsuit is expected to focus on Google’s claim that some apps use the company’s payment tools to sell subscriptions and content and pay Google as much as 30% of sales, according to two sources.
App makers such as music streaming service Spotify Technology SA and giant Match Group, which owns the Tinder app, have long accused both Google and Apple of being competitive in requiring mandatory revenue sharing.
This latest lawsuit is being planned at a time of unusually strong debate over whether federal enforcement of cartels is too lax. Many people, including Senator Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, have been pushing for tougher enforcement.
Google is already facing a federal lawsuit filed by the Justice Department last year and related cartel lawsuits filed by two separate groups of attorneys general. One is led by Texas and focuses on advertising, while the other focuses on Google’s alleged efforts to expand its dominance in search of newer markets, such as. Voice assistants.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz, Paresh Dave and Karen Freifeld. Editing by Jonathan Weber and Lisa Shumaker)