Google’s multi-state lawsuit settlement will cost it $700 million

    On top of fighting (and losing to) Epic Games over Play Store antitrust concerns, Google has been fighting a similar lawsuit filed by 36 states and the District of Columbia in 2021. A settlement for that suit was announced in September, but a judge still had to confirm the terms. Now, Google has announced that it will pay a $700 million fine and make what amounts to fairly minor changes to the Play Store.

    Of that sum, Google will distribute $630 million to consumers who may have overpaid for apps or in-app purchases on Google Play (after taxes, lawyers’ fees, etc.). That covers around 102 million people, according to The Washington Post. It will also pay $70 million into a “fund that will be used by the states,” according to Google’s blog.

    The other major change is that Google must allow developers to steer consumers toward sideloading to avoid Google’s Play Store fees on subscriptions and the like. It’ll do that via updated “language that informs users about these potential risks of downloading apps directly from the web for the first time.” However, these actions will be time limited to seven years for the sideloading and five years for the updated language, according to settlement’s wording spotted by The Verge.

    Google will also include language stating that “OEMs can continue to provide users with options out of the box to use Play or another app store.” Starting with Android 14, third-party stores will be allowed to handle future app updates, including automatic installs. It’s also expanding user choice billing that will allow Android apps and games to offer their own payment system in the US. “Developers are also able to show different pricing options within the app when a user makes a digital purchase,” Google states.

    The company will only be required to make these changes for five or six years maximum (seven years for alternate means to download apps). In other words, it could feasibly cut off access to sideloading or third-party app stores after that point, or make it harder for the average consumer to find the option.

    Another big thing missing is exterior payment links. “Google is not required to allow developers to include links that take a User outside an app distributed through Google Play to make a purchase,” the settlement agreement reads.

    The settlement sum represents a miniscule portion of Google’s turnover and the other terms are relatively minor changes over what it already does. It also doesn’t include Epic Games, which won its own lawsuit against Google earlier this month (Google has vowed to appeal). A court still needs to formally approve the states’ settlement.

    Google also argued at its Epic trial that consumers were able to get games by sideloading and other means, but that failed to sway the jury. When the settlement with the states was announced in September, Epic CEO Tim Sweeny said that if it “left the Google tax in place” his company would fight on. “Consumers only benefit if antitrust enforcement not only opens up markets, but also restores price competition,” he said at the time.

    Read the full article here

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