Epic Games, the developer behind games like Fortnite and Rocket League, has filed a legal claim against Google with the Federal Court of Australia, following on from its claim with the Court against Apple on similar grounds.
Apple and Epic are locked in a legal battle over Epic’s attempt to bypass Apple’s fee collection with its own in-app purchases for the game. Unhappy it could no longer take its usual 30 per cent cut, Apple removed Fortnite from its store.
In September last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced an investigation into the operation of app marketplaces in Australia, citing concerns around competition and consumer protections. Fee policies are one area the Australian regulator will investigate in the probe.
The company alleges that Google’s anti-competitive conduct breaches the Australian Consumer Law as well as various sections of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).
“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.
“The barriers Google places on Android OS are real. In the case of direct downloading, it makes the process so difficult and scary that it deters users from downloading apps from third- party web sites even though it is a totally normal way for users to get apps on a desktop. 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.”
In a company statement, Epic claims Google abuses its control over the Android operating system by “restricting competition in payment processing and app distribution on the Google Play Store. This harmful conduct stifles innovation, reduces consumer choice and inflates prices.”
According to the statement, “For apps obtained through the Google Play Store developers are forced to use Google’s in-app payment services that take a 30 per cent commission. Google also makes it egregiously difficult to download apps directly onto Android devices, forcing the vast majority of users to obtain apps through the Google Play Store.”
Android’s market share is around 45 per cent in Australia, and Epic claims 90 per cent of apps on an Android mobile are typically obtained via the Google Play Store.
This claim complements legal proceedings already underway in the US and UK, as well as an antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union. Epic is not seeking damages from Google or Apple, it is simply seeking fair access and competition that will benefit consumers and developers.
In addition to Epic’s claims in Australia against Apple and Google, the company is also participating in the Australian competition regulator’s review of mobile app marketplaces.