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Justice Wins: Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown Announces $700 Million Settlement with Google over Play Store Misconduct


Under this agreement, Google will be required to pay $630 million in restitution to consumers who have made purchases on the Google Play Store between August 2016 and September 2023 and have been negatively affected by Google's anticompetitive practices. This amount is subject to deduction for costs and fees.




On December 19, 2023, Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown, along with a bipartisan group of 52 other Attorneys General, made an announcement regarding a $700 million agreement with Google in relation to their lawsuit concerning Google's anticompetitive behavior within the Google Play Store.


“Consumers are harmed when they are unable to make choices based on what is available in the marketplace,” said Attorney General Brown. “Limiting options and the distribution of third party apps not only leads to fewer choices for consumers, but also higher prices and less innovation in the marketplace.”


Under this agreement, Google will be required to pay $630 million in restitution to consumers who have made purchases on the Google Play Store between August 2016 and September 2023 and have been negatively affected by Google's anticompetitive practices. This amount is subject to deduction for costs and fees. Additionally, Google will pay the states an additional $70 million in penalties, restitution, disgorgement, and fees. As part of the agreement, Google will also be obligated to adopt more procompetitive business practices in various significant ways.


Individuals who are eligible for restitution will not be required to submit claims as they will automatically receive payments through PayPal or Venmo. Alternatively, they may choose to receive a check or ACH transfer. Further details regarding this process will be provided in due course.


In 2021, a coalition of states, including Maryland, filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging that the company had unlawfully monopolized the market for Android app distribution and in-app payment processing. The states specifically claimed that Google had entered into anticompetitive contracts to prevent other app stores from being preloaded onto Android devices, paid influential developers to discourage them from launching their own rival app stores, and implemented technological barriers to dissuade consumers from directly downloading apps onto their devices.

The states reached a settlement in principle on September 5, 2023, and have now released the finalized terms of the agreement. The settlement agreement mandates that Google must implement changes to its business practices in the following manners:


1. Grant all developers the option to enable users to make payments for their digital content through in-app billing systems other than Google Play Billing for a minimum of five years.


2. Allow developers to offer discounted prices for their apps and in-app products to consumers who utilize alternative, non-Google billing systems for at least five years.


3. Enable developers to direct consumers towards alternative, non-Google billing systems by promoting lower prices within their respective apps for a period of five years.


4. Prohibit the establishment of contracts that make it mandatory for the Play Store to be the exclusive, pre-loaded app store on a device or home screen for a minimum of five years.


5. Permit the installation of third-party apps on Android phones from sources outside the Google Play Store for a duration of seven years.


6. Modify and decrease the warnings displayed on an Android device when a user attempts to download a third-party app from outside the Google Play Store for a minimum of five years.


7. Sustain Android system support for third-party app stores, including the facilitation of automatic updates, for a period of four years.


8. Eliminate the requirement for developers to release their app catalogs on the Play Store simultaneously with other app stores for at least four years.


9. Provide compliance reports to an independent monitor to ensure that Google continues to engage in procompetitive behavior for a minimum of five years.


Throughout much of this legal case, the Attorneys General collaborated with major app developers, Epic Games and Match. While Match reached a separate settlement earlier this year, Epic Games proceeded to trial. The trial concluded with a unanimous jury verdict that determined Google's anticompetitive actions had violated federal antitrust laws in the previous week.


In addition to Attorney General Brown, this lawsuit was supported by the Attorneys General of all states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.


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