App Developers Revise Allegations in Google Play Store Antitrust MDL

On Monday, app developer plaintiffs filed their second amended consolidated class action complaint against Google LLC and several related entities, once again asserting that the company has illegally cornered two markets, one for the distribution of Android OS mobile applications, and the other related to in-app purchases. The case is one of several consolidated under the In Re: Google Play Store Antitrust Litigation caption.

The 124-page complaint was previously amended this summer, after Google filed an omnibus motion to dismiss. Other cases in the consolidated suit include one by consumer plaintiffs, and a separate suit by Epic Games, who spearheaded the litigation last August when it filed suit against both Google and Apple.

The latter case was fast-tracked through the same district before another judge where a bench trial resulted in a decision largely in Apple’s favor, except to the extent that the court ordered the elimination of certain guidelines imposed by Apple on developers limiting their direct communication with consumers. The parties cross-appealed and briefing is now underway before the Ninth Circuit.

This week’s revised complaint approaches the case with the benefit of the sister court’s ruling in Epic Games’ monopolization suit with Apple. It outlines how Google allegedly engages in anti-competitive behavior to constrict competition and maintain its monopoly including through the erection of technical barriers, and in some cases by shutting down consumers’ access to app stores other than the Google Play store.

The lawsuit then describes how that conduct harms developers and the competitive landscape by, in summary, “killing competition and stifling consumer choice.” It urges that Google monopolizes the market for the Android in-app payment processing for digital goods, and that the in-app payment processing market is the relevant one for antitrust purposes.

The filing states six claims for relief under the Sherman Act, and states a tying claim—that “Google illegally ties its Google Play Billing solution to the agreement to distribute apps through Google Play Store and then charges a supracompetitive fee for that tied product”—as an alternative basis for its restraint of trade argument regarding the in-app purchasing claim. 

The complaint also states claims under California’s antitrust laws and ultimately seeks injunctive relief barring Google from further anticompetitive behavior and compensation in the form of damages and/or equitable monetary relief.

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP,  Hausfeld LLP, Sperling & Slater P.C., and The Lewis Firm are interim co-lead counsel for the proposed developer class.

Google is represented by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and O’Melveny Myers LLP.