US states and customers of the Google Play Store are to share in a $700 million payout as part of Google's settlement of one of its antitrust cases.
As the search giant's legal battle with the Department of Justice is still continuing, and shortly after the company lost an antitrust case brought by Epic Games, it's now paying out on a third front. Following a settlement with state attorneys general in September 2023, details of the payout and of other conditions have now been released publicly.
According to CNN, this case concerned separate complaints from dozens of states and also the Department of Justice that saw Google accused of abusing its dominance in online search. Those complaints consolidated into a single case, which Google then lost and must make changes to its App Store on top of the settlement fee.
The details of that fee and the required changes have been made public by Google itself, in a blog post that aims to spin this into a positive result. "Reaffirming choice and openness on Android and Google Play" stresses that the company is "pleased to resolve our case," although at the same time "we are challenging that verdict."
"This settlement builds on Android's choice and flexibility," writes Wilson White, Google's vice president of government affairs and public policy, "maintains strong security protections, and retains Google's ability to compete with other OS makers, and invest in the Android ecosystem for users and developers."
Google has committed to four issues over its app store, and a fifth regarding the settlement fee. According to Google, the four changes for the app store are:
- Growing our commitment to app store choice
- Streamlining sideloading while prioritizing security
- Expanding user choice billing to more people
- Expanding open communication on pricing
Overall, Google repeatedly states that for each of these areas, the company already does what has been asked of it. For example, "we have always allowed alternative app stores to be preloaded onto Android devices and for users to download alternative app stores directly."
"In fact, most Android devices ship with two or more app stores preloaded," it continues. "The settlement with the attorneys general makes clear that OEMs can continue to provide users with options out of the box to use Play or another app store."
For the issue regarding expanding user choice billing, Google says that "we have been piloting user choice billing in the US for over a year and will now expand this option further."
What happens next
"We're pleased to reach an agreement that builds on [these foundations]," says White in the blog post, "and we look forward to making these improvements that will help evolve Android and Google Play for the benefit of millions of developers and billions of people around the world."
The settlement was officially reached in September but Google notes that this has not yet been formally approved by the court. White says that "these proposed changes will go into effect" once that approval is completed.
It's not clear, however, whether Google will also wait to make changes until after any appeals process concludes.
Separately, the Department of Justice's antitrust case against Google over its general market dominance could also see the company being forced to make changes. One such change could be that it would no longer be allowed to pay Apple up to $20 billion a year to remain as the default search engine on iPhone.