With its eye on Apple’s appeal of a nearly-identical case, Google this week counter-sued Epic Games for bypassing its in-app payment system. Yes. Google has to copy everything Apple does.
“Far from generating anticompetitive harm, Android and Google Play bring enormous benefits to developers and users, and they do so at zero cost to users and minimal cost to developers in the vast majority of cases,” Google’s suit notes. “Epic’s suit threatens to undermine, rather than enhance, the very competition that has brought these benefits.”
As a reminder, Epic Games modified its game Fortnite to bypass the anticompetitive in-app payment systems that both Apple and Google require of apps in their respective mobile stores. As a result, Apple booted Fortnite out of the iOS App Store and suspended Epic’s developer account. And Google being Google, it copied Apple and did the same, but with its Play Store for Android. So Epic sued Apple. And then it sued Google too.
The case against Apple already went to court, and Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers issued a split ruling in which Epic won one of the most important elements of its case—forcing Apple to let developers communicate with their own customers—and alerting Epic that perhaps if it supplies more evidence—hint, hint—she could even label Apple a monopoly on appeal and impose stricter punishments against the company. Apple, naturally, called it a “resounding victory” before appealing the case itself.
Epic v. Google hasn’t yet gone to court, but this week’s counter-suit raises the stakes in a similar fashion. But Google’s arguments are just as specious as Apple’s, and despite the faux openness of Android, the online giant may have an even more problematic defense to mount since there is a lot of evidence that it has struck sweetheart deals with hardware makers to force them to only provide access to Google Play Store and its singular in-app payment system. Google also forced OnePlus, a relatively small player, to drop its Epic Games partnership that would have seen Fortnite bundled on its phones.
“Google seeks restitution of any such amounts by which Epic has been unjustly enriched at Google’s expense,” the countersuit adds, somewhat hilariously. “Google seeks and is entitled to a declaratory judgment that: (a) the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement (DDA) is a valid, lawful, and enforceable contract; (b) Epic breached that agreement; and (c) Google has the contractual right under the DDA to remove Fortnite from Google Play and terminate Epic as a registered Google Developer due to its breach. Google demands a trial by jury on all issues so triable.”
Tagged with Antitrust, Epic Games, Epic v. Apple, Epic v. Google