US: Several states accuse Google of monopolizing access to apps

Dozens of states in the United States collectively filed a lawsuit against Google, on Wednesday, accusing it of abusing its power over Android phone users seeking to download apps.

These lawsuits targeting the online Play Store with the aim of obtaining apps or other digital content on his Android smartphone, come at a time when major IT groups are facing growing lawsuits and criticism.

“We are bringing this lawsuit to end Google’s illegal monopoly and finally give a voice to millions of consumers and businesses,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, one of the leaders in the process.

“This company has made hundreds of millions of consumers turn to Google, and Google alone, to access the millions of apps they might want to download to their phones and tablets.”

The lawsuit, backed by 37 prosecutors, accuses Google of using anti-competitive tactics to prevent apps from being distributed via channels other than the Play Store, whose payment system collects transaction commissions.

“Android and Google Play both provide the openness and choice that other platforms do not have,” said Wilson White, Google’s director of public policy.

Google is accused of establishing itself as an intermediary between app developers and consumers.

Meanwhile, a decision is awaited in the high-profile lawsuit brought by Epic Games against Apple for abusing a dominant position with its App Store.

The App Store is the only portal for apps and other content for iPhone and other iOS devices.

On the contrary, people using Android mobile devices can get the apps through means other than the Play Store.

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These lawsuits are being launched against a backdrop of growing mistrust in the power of the IT giants, which increasingly dominate key sectors of the economy and have grown during the pandemic.

Democratic and Republican parliamentarians in the US Congress introduced five bills in June that directly target “monopolies” of tech giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (Gafa).

“Right now, unregulated technology monopolies have a lot of power over the economy,” wrote Democrat David Cicilline, chair of the House Antitrust Committee.

He added, “They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers, and put people out of business.”

The European Commission has for years increased its attacks against Gafa, whose behavior it considers anti-competitive.

But pressure is also mounting in the United States. Amazon, Facebook and Google are subject to lawsuits brought by federal authorities, US state coalitions, and the Attorney General of Washington, DC.

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