Google recently unveiled a $700 million settlement, allocating $630 million to U.S. consumers and $70 million to a fund for U.S. states. This resolution stems from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2021, addressing the platform’s monopoly on app distribution through the Play Store on Android. Although the settlement was initially reached in September, the details were only recently made public.
Google to pay settlements in a class-action lawsuit
As of November 2022, Google initiated a pilot program in the U.S. called the user choice billing program. This program allows developers to utilize alternative payment methods for in-app purchases. As part of the settlement, the firm intends to expand this program. Developers will gain the ability to present varying costs for purchase within the app, depending on the billing method chosen by the customer. In addition to the billing program, the firm plans to streamline the sideloading process.
Currently, users encounter a warning pop-up when attempting to sideload an app, followed by a settings screen where they can install apps from “unknown sources.” As part of the settlement, the firm will combine both these screens. The agreement specifies that this streamlined sideloading process must be maintained for at least five years without alterations. Despite emphasizing the safety risks associated with sideloading, the company aims to simplify the process and update the language used to inform users about potential risks when downloading apps directly from the web.
Streamlining sideloading and Android 14 advancements
Wilson White, VP of Government Affairs & Public Policy at Google mentioned that while the company maintains that it is critical to our safety efforts to inform users that sideloading on mobile could come with unique risks, the firm, as part of its settlement will be further simplifying the sideloading process. Google highlighted the advancements in Android 14, emphasizing an improved app upgrade process with more controls for third-party app stores through an API. This showcases Google’s commitment to enhancing the overall user experience on the Android platform.
This announcement comes on the heels of Google’s antitrust loss to Epic, a battle that Google plans to appeal. In a blog post, Google reiterated that it “didn’t recognize the choice and competition that our platforms enable” but acknowledged that the case is “far from over.” The trial uncovered various deals, such as Spotify paying no commission on Play Store in-app purchases. In response to the settlement, Epic Games’ Vice President of Public Policy, Corie Wright, expressed dissatisfaction, stating that the payment brings “no true relief” to consumers.
Wright argued that consumers would continue to overpay for digital goods due to Google’s imposition of high fees. Looking ahead, Epic Games plans to pursue “meaningful remedies” in the ongoing case with Google, aiming to foster a more open Android ecosystem. Google’s $700 million settlement reflects the company’s efforts to address concerns related to its app distribution practices. The expansion of the user choice billing program and streamlining of the sideloading process are key components of this settlement, signaling Google’s commitment to providing more options for developers and users.