A Critical Overview of Google’s Legal Challenge over “Excessive and Unlawful” Charges on its Play Store
Google is facing a legal challenge in the UK over charges made through its Google Play Store. The lawsuit, which is a class legal action, is being filed by Liz Coll, a consumer rights consultant, with the support of legal firm Hausfeld & Co. The suit accuses Google of exacting a 30% surcharge on all digital purchases made through the Play Store, which includes apps and services for smartphones and tablets using the Android operating system. This surcharge generates significant profit for Google, which the suit alleges is an “unlawful and unearned tax imposed on ordinary people without justification.”
The lawsuit is on behalf of approximately 19.5 million eligible Play Store customers in the UK, which means Google faces potential damages of up to £920 million. Each claimant could receive around £50. The legal challenge is similar to the case filed against Apple in May by the same legal team. Hausfeld & Co is leading the litigation against Apple over the 30% surcharge it charges on all paid app revenue and in-app purchases via its App Store.
The legal challenge filed by Coll raises questions about whether Google is treating consumers fairly and responsibly. The lawsuit alleges that Google is overcharging its customers who have no other options. The case covers those who have bought an app, digital content, services, or subscriptions within a non-Google app since 1 October 2015.
An Evocative Sub-heading: Unequal Treatment and Unfair Charges
Google’s 30% surcharge on all digital purchases made through the Play Store is deemed excessive and unlawful. This charge generates a considerable amount of profit for Google, and it is alleged that the company is imposing an “unlawful and unearned tax” on ordinary people without justification. The legal challenge raises concerns about whether Google is treating its customers fairly and responsibly.
Ms. Coll’s legal action argues that the majority of users are unlikely to be technically-minded enough to sideload apps using Android Package Kit files from outside the Play Store. Consequently, they do not have any other options but to pay the excessive charges on the Play Store. She argues that this is a simple question of unfairness, and many people are not aware of how their choices have been closed off to them.
An Evocative Sub-heading: Closed Choices and Unfairness
Google’s Play Store has given people access to mobiles and various digital services. However, Ms. Coll argues that Google needs to ensure that customers are treated fairly and have access to alternatives that may well be cheaper. The legal challenge covers the approximately 19.5 million people in the UK who have bought an app, digital content, services, or subscriptions within a non-Google app since 1 October 2015. Those who do not want to be part of the claim will be able to opt-out through the App Store Claims website.
The legal challenge is similar to separate legal action filed by 37 US state and district attorneys general earlier this month, which accused Google of “buying off competitors and using restrictive contracts to unlawfully maintain a monopoly for its app store on Android phones.” Google has argued that the legal challenge ignores the benefits and choice Android and Google Play provide as well as the competitive market in which they operate. The company highlights that 97% of Play Store developers do not pay a service fee, and less than 0.1% of developers are subject to a 30% service fee when they earn over $1m. The fee is comparable with Google’s competitors, and it allows the company to constantly reinvest in building a secure, thriving platform that benefits everyone who uses it.