More than 30 states, including FL, join lawsuit accusing Google of anti-competitive practices

By: - July 8, 2021 12:10 pm

Google’s New York office is shown in lower Manhattan on March 5, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Florida and Iowa are among at least 36 states suing Google over allegations the tech firm is operating a monopoly with its app store and Google Billing.

In the Midwest, Minnesota, Missouri, Minnesota and South Dakota also are involved with the lawsuit, Utah v. Google. The states claim Google paid off competitors and used contracts to create a monopoly for its app store on Android phones and Google Billing.

“Millions of consumers rely on the Google Play Store to discover and download frequently used apps on their smart devices,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said in a statement.

“Through the use of restrictive contracts and agreements, Google has used this reliance to thwart competition and create a monopoly in app distribution. What’s more, Google has knowingly passed higher than average fees along to customers, often costing consumers hundreds if not thousands of dollars they wouldn’t have spent except for Google’s dominant market position.”

In Florida, Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a news release: “Time and time again, we have seen Google use its power in the tech industry to unscrupulously exploit the marketplace. Google’s manipulation of app distribution on Android devices forces consumers into using Google’s services to purchase apps—resulting in a 30% commission charge on in-app payments.

“The tech giant’s monopoly on Android app purchases significantly hinders other in-app payment processors from entering the marketplace, leaving consumers with no other options when seeking to download apps. We will not allow Google to continue to monopolize an entire sector—eliminating competition and harming consumers.”

The suit came out of a massive investigation that began in September 2019 and involved Iowa and most other states. Lynn Hicks, Miller’s chief of staff, said Iowa was a leader in that investigation and a 2020 lawsuit alleging Google was using anti-competitive techniques in its search engines and advertising.

In a news release, Miller noted that Google’s system shuts out competing app distribution channels, and forced app consumers to pay Google’s 30% commission by going through Google Billing.

In response to the lawsuit, Google said in a blog post that the challenge comes from a few major app developers that want preferential treatment. “Android and Google Play provide openness and choice that platforms simply don’t,” Google wrote, according to Reuters.

The latest legal challenge is led by Utah, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Among the other states involved in the lawsuit are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee  and Virginia.

This story was originally published by the Iowa Capital Dispatch, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom, which includes the Florida Phoenix.

Florida Phoenix editor Diane Rado contributed to this report.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman is a senior reporter at the Iowa Capital Dispatch. He has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.