Epic has renewed its fight against mobile platforms’ app store restrictions, filing an update to its antitrust case against Google. The filing adds mostly redacted details about Google’s alleged monopolistic behavior on Android, including banning Epic’s game Fortnite from the Google Play Store last year. The amended complaint comes soon after a judge officially linked the case with a recent multi-state lawsuit, which took aim at Google’s Play Store policies.
Epic’s complaint builds on information gleaned from government antitrust probes and documents produced since the original suit. One addition, for instance, includes details revealed last year about “the close relationship that Google maintains with Apple,” including an agreement to pay between $8 and $12 billion to be Apple’s default search provider. It also includes new information about Google’s supposed anti-competitive conduct, including its deals with phone makers and alternate app stores. Most of this information, however, has been sealed — leaving only hints about the claims that the case could hinge on.
The filing includes new details, but most are redacted
Google denied the claims in a statement to The Verge. “The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users. While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. We will continue to defend ourselves against these meritless claims,” said spokesperson José Castañeda.
Among the new redacted information, Epic apparently describes its plans to launch Fortnite on the Samsung Galaxy Store. “Google was determined not to let this happen,” the complaint says, so it offered Epic a “special deal” to launch on Google Play. When Epic rejected the deal, Google allegedly took other anti-competitive action, but the details of that action aren’t available.
Google’s relationship with Samsung came under the microscope earlier this month when 36 states and the District of Columbia sued Google for breaking antitrust law. The Epic complaint cites some allegations that were raised in that complaint, like a deal to turn the Samsung Galaxy Store into effectively a rebranded Play Store — something the new filing reveals was called “Project Agave.” Epic’s filing suggests that if the lawsuit proceeds, it will hinge partly on how Google responded to the prospect of an Epic-Samsung deal.
Outside these and other redacted claims, the complaint makes the same basic argument as Epic’s original lawsuit in August. It says Google’s “open” Android ecosystem is still functionally monopolistic, preventing other app stores or sideloaded apps from competing on a level playing field with Google’s official Play Store platform. It’s seeking the ability to place Fortnite in the Google Play Store with an independent payment processing system and an end to other allegedly noncompetitive actions — which, in its complaint, include the relatively long and onerous process for launching a sideloaded app.
We’re still awaiting a verdict in Epic v. Apple
Epic and Google were initially supposed to appear in a hearing about the future of the case today. But the parties agreed to push back the timeline while Epic filed an amended complaint. Judge James Donato also agreed to consolidate early parts of the case with the state Play Store lawsuit. A proposed schedule from earlier this month gives Google until August 20th to file a motion to dismiss, then sets a hearing on the case for October 14th. Google has previously disputed the legal complaints against the Play Store, saying Google’s platform “provides more openness and choice than others.”
Epic v. Google has moved more slowly than Epic’s lawsuit against Apple, which went to trial in May and awaits a verdict. Epic v. Apple revolved around slightly different questions since, unlike Apple, Google does allow third-party apps or stores. So unlike on iOS, Fortnite isn’t locked out of Android while the case proceeds; you can still download it directly from Epic’s site. But both suits claim the platforms’ rules for developers are unfair and anti-competitive — and in Epic v. Google, Epic has found common cause with government antitrust watchdogs as well.
Update 1:20PM ET: Added comment from Google.