Fortnite-maker Epic Games has initiated legal proceedings against Google in Australia’s Federal Court, including the web giant in its existing scuffle with Apple over commissions charged in the leading smartphone app stores.
Epic is already suing Apple and Google in the US and Europe, and Apple in Australia, saying they effectively force app and game developers to use their payment mechanisms and charge an outsize commission of 30 per cent.
In August 2020, Epic’s game Fortnite, which brought in revenues of $US1.8 billion ($2.3 billion) in the previous year, was removed from Apple and Google’s app stores when Epic insisted on including its own direct payment option at a discounted rate. The game is currently still missing from these stores.
In its latest Australian filing, Epic claims Google is breaching Australian consumer law by abusing its control over the Android operating system. Google operates the Play Store on Android, and mandates all apps offered through Play use Google’s own payment apparatus, though unlike Apple, it allows alternative stores on its platform as well.
But Epic alleges Google makes it “egregiously difficult” for Android users to install apps from outside its own ecosystem, pointing to an ACCC report showing 90 per cent of Android apps in Australia were downloaded from the 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,” said Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney in a statement.
Epic initially avoided the Play Store on Android, asking players to download Fortnite directly from its website, but Sweeney said the process from a consumer point of view was made unnecessarily difficult and scary.
“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,” he said.
Epic is not seeking damages from Apple or Google, but requests the court put enforceable guidelines in place to create “fair access and competition” on the app stores. The complaint claims that if Google reduced the arbitrary friction in place, developers would offer apps from a range of sources and with a range of payment options that would cause Google to compete on an even playing field.
Google has been contacted for comment.
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