Epic wants to blow the Google Play Store wide open

Back in December, Epic Games won an antitrust case against Google. A jury found that Google held an illegal monopoly on in-app billing and app distribution on Android devices, and that it engaged in anticompetitive practices with certain gaming companies and device manufacturers.

At the time, it was unclear what Epic actually won as the remedies had not been determined. The Fortnite maker has now submitted a proposed permanent injunction against Google detailing what it wants. In short, Epic wants the Play Store to be almost wide open.

The injunction is based on three core points, Epic noted in a blog post. First, Epic believes that Google has to let users download apps from wherever they want without it getting in the way. It says people should be able to add apps to Android devices in much the same way they can from a computer — from any app store or the web.

Epic wants to block Google from scaring people off from downloading apps from the web (though it’s okay with letting Google block malware). It also wants to stop the company from working with carriers and phone manufacturers to limit the options consumers have for downloading apps. Among other things, Epic wants restrictions on pre-installed app stores to be outlawed. So, if the injunction is approved, we might see Android phones pre-installed with a Epic Games Store app in the future.

Second, Epic argues that Google has to allow developers and users the freedom to choose how they offer and pay for in-app purchases, “free from anticompetitive fees and restrictions.” It asserts that Google has to let developers include links from their apps to websites, where they might be able to make offer discounts as they’d bypass Google’s cut of in-app payments facilitated through the Play Store.

Epic kicked off its legal battle with Google (and Apple) in 2020 by pointing out to Fortnite mobile players that they could save money by buying the V-bucks currency directly from Epic. Under the proposed injunction, Google would be prevented from trying to prevent alternative payment options through compliance programs like User Choice Billing.

The third aim of Epic’s proposed injunction is to block Google from retaliating against it (or any app or developer) for taking on app store practices. “Google has a history of malicious compliance and has attempted to circumvent legislation and regulation meant to reign in their anti-competitive control over Android devices,” Epic wrote. “Our proposed injunction seeks to block Google from repeating past bad-faith tactics and open up Android devices to competition and choice for all developers and consumers.”

The injunction has more details about Epic’s demands, including for Google to untangle its products and services (such as Android APIs) from the Play Store. For a period of six years, Epic wants Google to allow third-party app stores onto the Play Store without fees, and for them to have access to the Play Store’s library of apps. That would also mean allowing the third-party app stores to handle updates for Play Store apps. Epic wants Google to appoint a compliance committee to ensure it’s abiding by the injunction too.

We may not have to wait too long to find out just how many of Epic’s requests the court rubberstamps. Google will respond to the proposal by May 2 and a hearing on the injunction is set for May 23.

Google is having to make many similar changes in the European Union due to the bloc’s Digital Markets Act. However, parent company Alphabet and Apple are already under investigation over concerns that they’re not freely allowing developers to bypass the Play Store and App Store.

Meanwhile, as a result of the DMA, Epic plans to release a mobile app store on iOS and Android in the EU later this year. It’s also still battling Apple over third-party payments in the US.

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