The firm behind popular shooting game Fortnite has won an antitrust trial against Google after accusing the tech giant of anticompetitive practices.
Epic Games claimed Google has been abusing its power to shield its play store – from which users download apps – from competition to protect a system that makes billions of dollars each year.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 2020, also challenges the fee of up to 30% that Google imposes on developers for in-app sales.
The jury returned a unanimous verdict after just three hours of deliberation at the end of a four-week trial.
“Victory over Google! After four weeks of detailed court testimony, the California jury found against the Google Play monopoly on all counts,” Epic’s chief executive, Tim Sweeney, said.
Just as Apple does for its iPhone app store, Google charges a commission ranging between 15-30% on digital transactions within apps.
Apple won a similar case Epic brought against the iPhone app store in a 2021 trial, which was decided by a federal judge in a ruling that is under appeal at the US Supreme Court.
But the nine-person jury in the play store case came to a different conclusion, even though Google technically allows Android apps to be downloaded from other stores – an option not available on the iPhone.
“The trial has shone a very bright light on what Google has done to impair the competition,” a lawyer for Epic, Gary Bornstein, told jurors.
He added Google “systematically blocks” other app stores on the company’s play store.
Just before the trial started, Google tried to avoid a jury, but now it will be up to US District Judge James Donato to decide what steps Google will have to take to unwind its illegal behaviour.
The judge indicated he will hold hearings on the issue in the second week of January.
‘Not the behaviour of a monopolist’
Google had denied wrongdoing and argued it competes “intensely on price, quality, and security” against Apple’s app store.
A lawyer for Google, Jonathan Kravis, told jurors Google “does not want to lose 60 million Android users to Apple every year”.
He said Google lowered its fee structure to compete with Apple. “This is not the behaviour of a monopolist,” he added.
Google said it would appeal.
“We will continue to defend the Android business model and remain deeply committed to our users, partners, and the broader Android ecosystem,” Wilson White, vice president of government affairs and public policy at Google, said.
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Google settled related claims from dating app maker Match before the trial began.
The tech giant also settled related antitrust claims by US states and consumers under terms not yet made public.