Attorney General Schwalb Announces $700 Million Multistate Settlement With Google Over Play Store Misconduct

Settlement Resolves Antitrust Lawsuit, Requires Google to Make Major Changes to Android App Distribution Practices & In-App Payment Processes

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb and a bipartisan group of 52 other attorneys general today announced that Google will pay $700 million to resolve an antitrust lawsuit involving the Google Play store. The lawsuit alleged that Google unfairly and illegally restricted competition for Android app distribution and in-app payment processing, limiting choices for consumers and driving up prices. As part of the settlement, Google will be required to pay $630 million in restitution to consumers nationwide and pay $70 million in penalties to the states and the District of Columbia. The District will receive nearly $2 million in penalties and costs of litigating the case, and the amount in restitution for residents will be determined through a claims process, to be announced at a later date.

“For tens of millions of Android users in this country – including hundreds of thousands of District Android users – this is a significant win. For far too long, Google’s anticompetitive practices in the distribution of apps deprived Android users of choices and forced them to pay artificially elevated prices,” said Attorney General Schwalb. “As a result of this settlement, Google will pay $700 million in restitution, penalties, costs and fees. Equally important, Google is required to make meaningful operational changes that will expand choice for Android users, enable fair and open competition, and promote innovation. The Office of the Attorney General is committed to aggressively enforcing antitrust laws, to standing up for DC residents, and to holding accountable companies that employ illegal tactics to improperly drive-up profits.”

The attorneys general sued Google in 2021, alleging that Google unlawfully monopolized the market for Android app distribution and in-app payment processing. Specifically, the states claimed that Google signed anticompetitive contracts to prevent other app stores from being preloaded on Android devices, bought off key app developers who might have launched rival app stores, and created technological barriers to deter consumers from directly downloading apps to their devices. The states announced a settlement in principle on September 5, 2023, and today released the finalized terms of that deal.

Google will pay $630 million in restitution, minus additional costs and fees, to consumers who made purchases on the Google Play Store between August 2016 and September 2023 and were harmed by Google’s anticompetitive practices. Google will pay the states an additional $70 million in penalties. Consumers who are eligible for restitution do not have to submit a claim—they will receive automatic payments through PayPal or Venmo, or they can elect to receive a check or ACH transfer. More details about that process will be provided to consumers at a later date.

In addition to paying restitution and penalties, the settlement requires Google to reform its business practices in the following ways:

  • Give all developers the ability to allow users to pay through in-app billing systems other than Google Play Billing for at least five years
  • Allow developers to offer cheaper prices for their apps and in-app products for consumers who use alternative, non-Google billing systems for at least five years
  • Permit developers to steer consumers toward alternative, non-Google billing systems by advertising cheaper prices within their apps themselves for at least five years
  • Not enter contracts that require the Play Store to be the exclusive, pre-loaded app store on a device or home screen for at least five years
  • Allow the installation of third-party apps on Android phones from outside the Google Play Store for at least seven years
  • Revise and reduce the warnings that appear on an Android device if a user attempts to download a third-party app from outside the Google Play Store for at least 5 years
  • Maintain Android system support for third-party app stores, including allowing automatic updates, for four years
  • Not require developers to launch their app catalogs on the Play Store at the same time they launch on other app stores for at least four years
  • Submit compliance reports to an independent monitor, who will ensure that Google is not continuing its anticompetitive conduct, for at least 5 years

For much of this case, the attorneys general litigated alongside Epic Games and Match, two major app developers. While Match announced a separate settlement earlier this year, Epic Games took its case to trial. Last week, a jury unanimously found that Google’s anticompetitive conduct violated the federal antitrust laws.

Attorney General Schwalb was joined in this lawsuit by the attorneys general from all 50 states and the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

A copy of the settlement is available here.