Florida, Ashley Moody sue Google over antitrust laws … again
Image via AP.

Google
Florida joins fleet of states suing the Silicon Valley behemoth.

It’s déjà vu all over again.

For the third time in less than a year, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is suing Google over antitrust laws, joining 36 other attorneys general in the suit.

The complaint, filed Wednesday in a federal court based in San Francisco, accuses Google Play of being a monopoly as Android phones’ only app store. That manipulates the prices of apps, they argue, including through a 30% commission charge on in-app payments.

“The tech giant’s monopoly on Android app purchases significantly hinders other in-app payment processors from entering the marketplace, leaving consumers with no other options when seeking to download apps,” Moody said in a statement. “We will not allow Google to continue to monopolize an entire sector — eliminating competition and harming consumers.”

Moody, a Republican, joins a bipartisan coalition, led by Utah’s Attorney General’s Office. Other attorneys general in the lawsuit include those of New York, Tennessee, California and the District of Columbia.

Google shuts out competing app stores, according to the suit. Moreover, it requires developers selling apps to use Google Billing as a middleman, effectively creating the commission on in-app purchases.

Facing mounting pressure, Google dropped the 30% fee to 15% on July 1, but only for the first $1 million made by the developer. That decision has been in the works since March.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Google broke a promise to keep Android open-source, allowing developers to create compatible apps and distribute them without restrictions.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a federal court in the District of Columbia dismissing antitrust lawsuits against Facebook that would have forced the Silicon Valley giant to divest Instagram and WhatsApp. The court ruled that the Federal Trade Commission failed to prove that Facebook maintains a monopoly over social media.

Google has also been the target of several lawsuits and investigations. In September 2019, Florida and 47 other states launched an antitrust investigation into Google. In October 2020, Florida joined 10 other states and the Trump administration’s Department of Justice in a Republican-backed complaint that Google held a monopoly over internet searches. Then in March, Florida joined a bipartisan group of 14 other states suing Google, accusing it of holding a monopoly over online advertisements.

“Time and time again, we have seen Google use its power in the tech industry to unscrupulously exploit the marketplace,” Moody said.

Florida has also been on the receiving end of lawsuits from the tech industry. On June 30, a federal judge temporarily blocked a state law that would have cracked down on social media companies’ abilities to moderate their platforms. Gov. Ron DeSantis named the bill a priority ahead of the 2021 Legislative Session after Twitter and other prominent social media companies banished then-President Donald Trump and other conservatives from their platforms following the U.S. Capitol riot.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and NetChoice — two D.C.-based tech business associations that include Facebook, Twitter and others — brought that lawsuit. Both groups also include Google.

In a statement, NetChoice Vice President and General Counsel Carl Szabo argued the latest lawsuit against Google would make it harder and more costly for builders to develop for Android.

“By no means is Google forcing consumers into an Android ecosystem,” Szabo said. “Rather, Google has actively made conscious efforts to download and use Google’s competitors on their infrastructure, even if it’s at their own expense.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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