Epic files new complaint in its antitrust suit against Google

Epic has filed an update to its antitrust action against Google, renewing its fight against app store limitations on mobile platforms. The lawsuit includes mostly redacted specifics concerning Google’s alleged monopolistic practices on Android, including as last year’s removal of Epic’s game Fortnite from the Google Play Store. The new complaint was filed shortly after a judge linked the case to a recent multi-state litigation that targeted Google’s Play Store policies.

Epic’s lawsuit is based on facts obtained from federal antitrust investigations and documents released since the first litigation. Details reported last year concerning “Google’s intimate relationship with Apple,” including an agreement to pay between $8 and $12 billion to be Apple’s default search engine, are among the additions. It also contains additional details about Google’s alleged anti-competitive behavior, including as its relationships with phone manufacturers and other app shops. The majority of this evidence, however, has been kept under wraps, providing only suggestions as to the allegations on which the case could be decided.

In a statement to The Verge, Google refuted the claims. “Developers may distribute their programs across numerous app stores thanks to the open Android environment. We have clear regulations for game developers who choose to utilize the Play Store that are fair to developers and maintain the store safe for customers. While Fortnite is still available on Android, we are unable to make it available on Google Play due to policy violations. José Castaeda, a spokesperson for the company, said, “We will continue to defend ourselves against these baseless charges.”

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Epic appears to disclose its ambitions to debut Fortnite on the Samsung Galaxy Store among the newly censored information. According to the complaint, “Google was determined not to let this happen,” so it offered Epic a “special deal” to launch on Google Play. When Epic declined the proposal, Google allegedly pursued other anti-competitive measures, although the specifics aren’t known.

The relationship between Google and Samsung was put under the spotlight earlier this month when 36 states and the District of Columbia sued Google for antitrust violations. The Epic complaint references several of the allegations made in that case, such as a contract to turn the Samsung Galaxy Store into a rebranded Play Store — dubbed “Project Agave” in the new filing. According to Epic’s filing, the lawsuit’s outcome will be influenced in part by Google’s reaction to the possibility of an Epic-Samsung agreement.

The complaint, with the exception of these and other suppressed accusations, makes the same general premise as Epic’s original lawsuit from August. It claims that Google’s “open” Android environment is nevertheless functionally monopolistic, preventing rival app stores or sideloaded apps from competing with Google’s official Play Store platform on an equal footing. It wants the ability to put Fortnite in the Google Play Store with its own payment processing system, as well as an end to other allegedly anti-competitive practices, such as the rather lengthy and onerous process for launching a sideloaded software, according to the lawsuit.

Epic and Google were originally scheduled to appear at a hearing today to discuss the case’s future. However, the parties reached an agreement to postpone the deadline while Epic submitted an amended complaint. Judge James Donato also consented to combine the case’s early stages with the state’s Play Store action. According to a planned schedule from earlier this month, Google has until August 20th to file a motion to dismiss, after which the matter will be heard on October 14th. Google has previously refuted legal claims made against the Play Store, claiming that its platform “provides greater openness and choice than others.”

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Epic v. Google has progressed more slowly than Epic v. Apple, which went to trial in May and is still awaiting a decision. Because, unlike Apple, Google allows third-party programs or storefronts, Epic v. Apple-focused around slightly different questions. So, unlike iOS, Fortnite isn’t blocked on Android while the matter is being resolved; you can still get it via Epic’s website. Both lawsuits claim that the platforms’ developer regulations are unfair and anti-competitive, and Epic has found common ground with government antitrust watchdogs in Epic v. Google.

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