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Google Antitrust Trial 2.0: Internet Giant Enters Legal Battle Royale with ‘Fornite’ Maker Epic Games

Google is set to defend its app store practices in federal court against allegations of antitrust violations brought by Epic Games, the developer of massively popular game Fortnite. At the heart of the lawsuit is Google’s app store “tax” which ranged to 15 to 30 percent of in-app purchases.

ABC News reports that Google is set to face another antitrust lawsuit as the company is set to enter a San Francisco federal court to defend its Play Store’s in-app purchasing system. The tech giant is accused of using its market dominance to unfairly influence app prices and stifle competition. The plaintiff, Fortnite developer Epic Games, previously engaged in a similar legal dispute with Apple, which resulted in a partial victory for the game developer.

The heart of the controversy lies in the commissions Google charges for in-app purchases, ranging from 15 percent to 30 percent, which Epic Games claims inflate costs for both consumers and app developers. Despite the Android operating system allowing for alternative app marketplaces, Epic insists that Google’s practices restrict fair competition within the app ecosystem.

Google’s defense hinges on the argument that the fees are a legitimate means of recouping investments in the Play Store and ensuring the security of its vast user base. The trial, expected to run through the holiday season, will feature high-profile testimonies, including that of CEO of Sundar Pichai.

Epic Games’ CEO, Tim Sweeney, has openly criticized Google’s “user choice billing” as deceptive, while Google’s Wilson White has dismissed Epic’s claims, suggesting the game developer is attempting to leverage the Android platform without fair compensation.

This is not the first time that Epic has taken on a tech giant over its in-app purchase fees, previously taking Apple to court over the same issue. As Breitbart News reported:

In September, Epic’s attempts to challenge Apple’s App Store restrictions came to an end when a district court ordered Apple to remove certain restrictions on in-app payments but otherwise ruled that the company had not engaged in other anti-competitive practices. A separate appeal from Apple has since been filed to reverse the court-ordered in-app payment rules.

Judge Gonzales Rogers was quite ambiguous over whether or not Apple held monopoly power over the mobile gaming market in her ruling, stating: “The evidence does suggest that Apple is near the precipice of substantial market power, or monopoly power, with its considerable market share. Apple is only saved by the fact that its share is not higher, that competitors from related submarkets are making inroads into the mobile gaming submarket, and, perhaps, because [Epic] did not focus on this topic.”

In the appeals brief, Epic is attempting to draw a clearer link between the iPhone’s success in the mobile gaming industry and possible monopolistic behavior. “The district court’s factual findings make clear,” the filing alleges, “that Apple’s conduct is precisely what the antitrust laws prohibit.”

 

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