San Francisco District Judge James Donato has withdrawn the certification of a class action lawsuit by 21 million consumers who allege Google violated federal antitrust law by overcharging on the Google Play app.
The consumers claim Google’s alleged monopoly prevented them from accessing a more diverse range of cheaper apps. Monday’s (28 August) decision has wider ramifications on damages Google may owe over the distribution of Android apps.
In his 2022 class certification order, Donato stated that the plaintiffs established legal elements of “commonality” needed for a class action over alleged anticompetitive business practices.
After his decision not to allow an economist to testify for the consumers, Donato has since stated that the order should be disregarded. This decision would eliminate an essential element of the plaintiffs’ argument.
As Google is in the process of appealing Donato’s 2022 ruling, the class action lawsuit cannot be immediately decertified. The hearing is tabled for 7 September.
The class members include individual consumers in 12 states, in addition to Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
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The case forms part of a larger antitrust litigation, including 38 states and companies Epic Games and Match Group.
In April 2023, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) imposed a $32m fine on Google for restricting the release of video games on its local rival’s platform.
KFTC alleged that Google asked Chinese as well as Korean gaming companies, including Netmarble and NCsoft, to ‘exclusively’ launch their games on its Play Store platform.
This followed a $160m fine imposed by India’s National Company Law Appellate Tribunal on Google in March, as their Android system was accused of poor business practices and market dominance.