Epic Games extends app store battle to Google in Australia

The Fortnite-maker alleges that Google has abused its control over the Android OS by restricting competition in payment processing and app distribution on the Google Play Store.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Epic Games has filed a legal claim against Google, alleging the search giant has breached Australian Consumer Law and sections of the country's Competition and Consumer Act by acting anti-competitively.

The claim, filed with the Federal Court of Australia, accuses Google of abusing its control over the Android OS to restrict competition in payment processing and app distribution on the Google Play Store.

"This harmful conduct stifles innovation, reduces consumer choice, and inflates prices," the company said in a statement.

In the claim, Epic said Google's "contravening conduct hinders or prevents the ability of Epic (and other app developers) from distributing its software applications". It said such conduct has prevented any meaningful competition in the distribution of apps to Android devices.

"These restrictions have provided Google -- through its control of the Google Play Store -- with a near-monopoly in the market," Epic wrote in the claim.

Epic said in addition to developers being forced to use Google's in-app payment services, which takes a 30% commission, Google has also made it "egregiously difficult" to download apps directly onto Android devices, forcing the vast majority of users to obtain apps through the Google Play Store

"Google gives the illusion of being open by making arguments about the presence of alternative app stores on its platform or allowing direct downloading of apps from third party providers, but in reality these situations are so rare that they barely make a dent in the monopoly of the Android OS," Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney said

"The barriers Google places on Android OS are real. In the case of direct downloading, it makes the process so difficult and scary that it deters users from downloading apps from third party-websites even though it is a totally normal way for users to get apps on a desktop.

"It's actions like this that illustrate Google is more interested in feigning openness than delivering choice to consumers. We believe consumers have the right to install apps from sources of their choosing and developers have the right to compete in a fair marketplace."

The claim is filed against Google LLC, Google Asia Pacific, and Google Australia.

Epic in November filed a similar claim against Apple Australia.

"Apple's conduct has hindered or prevented, and continues to hinder or prevent, Epic and other app developers and in-app content payment providers from competing or effectively competing in the iOS App Distribution Market and the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market," the claim against the local arm of Apple states.

"Among other things, Apple's conduct has forced Epic and other app developers to pay Apple monopoly prices … in connection with all in-app purchases of their in-app content on iOS devices. This has led to harms including increased prices for in-app content by iOS device users in Australia and lost profits for Epic."

Epic brought proceedings against Apple in the United States in August, accusing Apple, as well as Google, of being anti-competitive and monopolistic. The accusations arose after both tech giants removed Fortnite from their respective app marketplaces after Epic implemented its own in-app purchase system, which circumvented app store fees.

Apple countersued Epic Games in September, accusing the game developer of attempting to pay nothing for the value it derived from being in the App Store. It also alleged Epic of committing commission theft by deliberately implementing its own in-app payment system, which led to the game designer breaching its App Store contractual obligations.

It has since extended legal proceedings to the United Kingdom, where it was dismissed, as well as the European Union.

"Epic is not seeking damages from Google or Apple, it is simply seeking fair access and competition that will benefit consumers and developers," the Fortnite-maker confirmed in a statement on Wednesday.


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