If there’s an Android smartphone in your pocket, there’s a chance you could be owed a £50 windfall from Google. That’s because the US technology firm is facing a new lawsuit over claims that its Play Store charges are excessive and “unlawful”. According to the landmark legal action brought in a UK court against Google, the firm systematically breaks the law and overcharges millions of UK users for apps and other purchases made on its popular app store.
As you’re probably aware, booting up Android devices for the first time, most have the Google Play Store preloaded to download new software, eBooks, rent and buy movies, and more.
This, the lawsuit says, steers the majority of users to Google’s platform and stifles any competition. Google typically makes 30 percent commission on most purchases made through the Play Store, which the team behind the action say “is an unlawful and unearned tax, imposed on ordinary people without justification.”
The claim alleges that Google’s conduct violates section 18 of the UK Competition Act 1998 and Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Bringing this collective action is Liz Coll, an established consumer advocate and former consumer policy lead at Citizens Advice.
Damages of around £920 million are now being sought for UK users, which means millions of Android fans could see a payout of around £50 heading their way. If successful, the compensation would be paid out to any person who, at any point from 1 October 2015, made purchases of an app or digital content, services or subscriptions within an app in the UK version of the Google Play Store.
Speaking about the latest action against Google, consumer advocate Liz Coll said: “Google has done a great job in opening up access to all the benefits of smartphones for millions of people including me in the UK. But while it claims to be an open system offering choice, in reality Google has shut out competition and locked consumers into its own app store and its own payment system.
“Google created the Android app marketplace, and controls it with a vice-like grip. Customers are herded towards the Google Play Store, and once there have no option but to pay a 30% fee whenever they buy an app or make an in-app purchase. Competing app stores, which could give the same service at a fraction of the price, never get a look in.
“Google is a gatekeeper to so many digital services, and it has a responsibility not to abuse that position and overcharge ordinary consumers. These hidden charges are unlawful, and Google’s customers deserve compensation, and better treatment from Google in future.”
In response, Google says it competed “vigorously and fairly for developers and consumers.” The firm also says that its “fee is comparable with our competitors and allows us to constantly reinvest in building a secure, thriving platform that benefits everyone who uses it.”
Google isn’t the only tech giant facing a compensation payment with a similar lawsuit also filed in the UK against Apple and its App Store.
The team behind the lawsuit is seeking compensation for all those affected, and has estimated that the total payout could exceed £1.5bn.
Unlike Android handsets, which can download software from other app stores – like the Huawei AppGallery or Amazon App Store – provided you tweak the default settings, iPhone can only use software downloaded from the App Store.
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