Epic Games and Match Group are attempting to expand their lawsuits against Google to include additional allegations against the search giant. In a motion filed on Friday with a federal court in the Northern District of California, the two companies accused Google of paying off developers that had the means and ability to create competing Android app stores.
Specifically, Epic and Match point to agreements like Project Hug. The initiative, later called the “Apps and Games Velocity Program,” saw Google spend millions of dollars to keep some of Android’s most popular developers on the Play Store, according to a complaint filed by Epic last year.
“Some of these agreements were intended to, and did, stop developers from launching competing app stores,” the motion states, adding Google committed a “per se” violation of the Sherman Act, the primary US antitrust law. Under the Sherman Act, per se violations don’t require a plaintiff to show how a certain behavior negatively affected the market since it’s generally accepted such actions reduce competition (price fixing, for instance, falls under that category).
Google told Engadget it would oppose the motion. “Epic and Match are adding more inaccurate claims to their failing lawsuits and we’re looking forward to setting the record straight in court,” a company spokesperson said.
“The program on which Epic and Match base their claims simply provides incentives for developers to give benefits and early access to Google Play users when they release new or updated content; it does not prevent developers from creating competing app stores, as they allege,” they added. “In fact, the program is proof that Google Play competes fairly with numerous rivals for developers, who have a number of choices for operating systems and app stores.”
The motion comes after both Epic and Match reached temporary agreements with Google earlier this year to ensure their apps remain on the Play Store while they resolve their litigation. In a countersuit Google filed in June, the company accused Match of attempting to pay “nothing at all” for access to the Play Store. Google’s store fees have also drawn scrutiny from the Department of Justice and a group of more than three dozen states.
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