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12 December 2023

The US court verdict comes off the back of new calls for reform to address anti-competitive behaviour within the Apple iPhone and Android smartphone app markets.

On 11 December (Pacific Standard Time) the jury in the Epic Games v Google litigation in California delivered its verdict finding that Google’s Play Store and tied billing service was an illegal monopoly.

Epic Games is the maker of Fortnite and has brought actions against Google and Apple in the US, Australia and the UK.

The Australian Epic actions are being heard together with the class actions brought by Phi Finney McDonald with Maurice Blackburn on behalf of app developers and consumers over unfair and excessive commission fees charged in relation to the App Store and Play Store for app purchases, subscriptions and in-app purchases.

The Australian class actions, which allege the conduct of the two tech giants breach Australian Consumer Law, are scheduled for trial in the Federal Court in March 2024.

The US verdict comes as a new report by the Senate Economics References Committee recommended the Australian Government introduce laws to “to prevent anti-competitive practices through the bundling of payment services and products by large digital platforms”.

The Influence of international digital platforms report also raised concerns over app store providers tying the use of app store services to the use of their in-app payment services, warning it created a barrier to entry for competitors, and limited choice for consumers.

“Other jurisdictions such as the European Union and South Korea have introduced measures that require major app store operators such as Apple and Google to unbundle the use of their proprietary in-app payment systems from the use of app distribution services,” the report said.

“Accordingly, the committee supports introduction of legislation that will address anti-competitive tying by Big Tech platforms to ensure a level and competitive playing field.”

Quotes attributable to Phi Finney McDonald principal lawyer Joel Phibbs

“Our case, which is being run alongside Epic’s cases against Apple and Google in Australia, seeks compensation for the app developers and consumers who, we say, have paid more than they should have due to Apple and Google's anti-competitive behaviour.

“The ACCC has already recommended a crackdown on these digital platforms as part of a proposed industry code of conduct. The Senate Committee report further supports our position that Apple and Google's anti-competitive conduct needs to be addressed and the jury in California has now made findings that Google’s Play store and billing service is an illegal monopoly.

“While the Senate and the regulatory response are pleasing for the future of reform, they won't provide any form of redress.”

Quotes attributable to Maurice Blackburn class action principal lawyer Kimi Nishimura

“We welcome this jury verdict in the US and this new report which highlight the anti-competitive behaviour by global tech giants that forms the centrepiece of our cases against Apple and Google.

“We are looking forward to our day in court where we will be seeking significant compensation for developers and consumers who were disadvantaged by the excessive commissions levied by Apple and Google.” 

    > Read more about the App Store class action
    > Read more about the Play Store class action


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