Appeals Court Intervenes In Battle Over Google Play Store Policies

A federal appeals court has agreed to hear Google's appeal of a district court judge's order allowing consumers to proceed with a class-action over app store policies that allegedly resulted in inflated fees.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' move, announced Monday, comes in sprawling antitrust litigation against Google over allegedly anti-competitive policies in its app marketplace. Google is facing lawsuits by consumers, developers, and a coalition of state attorneys general for allegedly hindering consumers' ability to download apps from sources other than the Play store.

The claims center on allegations that Google uses anti-competitive tactics to ensure that app developers distribute through the Google Play store, where Google charged commissions of up to 30%. Google, unlike Apple, has always allowed consumers to “sideload” apps -- that is, to download them from sources other than the Play store -- but the lawsuits allege that the company discourages users from doing so.

The company recently agreed to settle some developers' claims, but is still fighting cases by the consumers and attorneys general.

Last November, U.S. District Court Judge James Donato said the consumers could proceed on a class-wide basis, and certified a class of 21 million consumers who made purchases involving apps.

Google recently asked the 9th Circuit to hear an immediate appeal of that order, arguing that most consumers weren't affected financially by Google's fees for developers.

“Although plaintiffs are consumers, they allege that as a result of anticompetitive conduct, Google’s developer service fee is too high. Their claims thus depend on a 'pass-through' theory: They are injured only if developers would have passed the benefit of lower service fees through to consumers via lower prices,” Google wrote.

The company argued that “real-world data” disproves that pass-through theory, writing that developers “almost never” lower their prices in response to a lower service fee.

“When Google actually lowered service fees, developers lowered prices for about 2% of products,” the company argued. “For the vast majority of 21 million consumers in the class, a lower service fee for developers would not have resulted in a lower price, which means the vast majority of the class is uninjured,” Google contended.

Next story loading loading..