Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division of Consumer Affairs, together with a bipartisan group of 52 other attorneys general, today announced a $700 million agreement with Google in their lawsuit challenging the tech giant’s anticompetitive conduct in connection with the Google Play Store.
New Jersey and the coalition sued Google in 2021, alleging that Google unlawfully monopolized the Android app distribution and in-app payment processing markets. The states’ complaint highlighted several allegedly anticompetitive practices, including Google’s use of restrictive contracts to stifle the growth of competing app stores on Android devices, paying off key app developers to dissuade them from creating rival app stores, and Google’s use of technological barriers designed to discourage consumers from downloading apps outside of the Google Play Store.
“As we spend increasing amounts of time on our phones, it is imperative that fair and transparent pricing and consumer choice be just as visible in the digital world as it is when we conduct business in real life, like when you are shopping in your downtown,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Going forward, we are requiring Google to reform their business practices so that they can no longer hide behind opaque contracts and pricing.”
“Google’s conduct kept prices artificially high for Android users and has prevented competition in the digital marketplace,” said Cari Fais, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “This settlement makes clear this conduct will not be tolerated, and requires Google to compensate consumers for the harm it caused.”
Specifically, Google will pay $630 million in restitution−minus administrative costs and fees−to consumers who made purchases on the Google Play Store between August 2016 and September 2023 and were harmed by anticompetitive practices. Google will pay the states an additional $70 million in penalties. Consumers eligible for restitution do not have to submit a claim—they will receive automatic payments through PayPal or Venmo, or they can elect to receive a check or ACH transfer.
In addition, Google must reform its business practices in the following ways:
Give all developers the ability to allow users to pay through in-app billing systems other than Google Play Billing, for at least five years.
Allow developers to offer cheaper prices for their apps and in-app products for consumers who use alternative, non-Google billing systems, for at least five years.
Permit developers to steer consumers toward alternative, non-Google billing systems by advertising cheaper prices within their apps themselves, for at least five years.
Not enter contracts that require the Play Store to be the exclusive, pre-loaded app store on a device or home screen, for at least five years.
Allow the installation of apps from third-party stores in addition to the Google Play Store on Android phones, for at least seven years.
Revise and reduce the warnings that appear on an Android device if a user attempts to download a third-party app from outside the Google Play Store, for at least five years.
Maintain Android system support for third-party app stores, including allowing automatic updates, for four years.
Not require developers to launch their app catalogs on the Play Store at the same time as they launch on other app stores, for at least four years.
Submit compliance reports to an independent monitor who will ensure that Google is not continuing its anticompetitive conduct, for at least five years.
For much of this case, the attorneys general litigated alongside Epic Games and Match, two major app developers. Match announced a separate settlement earlier this year, while Epic Games took its case to trial. Last week, a jury unanimously found that Google’s anticompetitive conduct violated federal antitrust laws.
This lawsuit was led by the attorneys general from North Carolina, Utah, Tennessee, New York, and California, and joined by the attorneys general of all remaining states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Earlier this year, New Jersey joined seven other states and the U.S. Department of Justice in a federal lawsuit against Google over its efforts to eliminate competition in the digital advertising marketplace and create a monopoly for the company over all advertising bought and sold on the internet.
A year ago, New Jersey and 39 other attorneys general settled another case with Google resolving a multistate investigation into allegations that the online search engine platform violated consumers’ privacy by misleading consumers about its location data collection practices.
In 2020, New Jersey, along with a coalition of 38 attorneys general, also sued Google for engaging in anticompetitive practices in the general search engine and related advertising markets. The trial concluded on November 16, and the closing arguments are scheduled for May 2024.