Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Lawsuit, filed in 2021, accused Google of burying competition to its app store

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that, as a result of his multistate antitrust lawsuit against Google, Washington Google Play Store users are eligible for a share of a $700 million nationwide resolution against the global technology giant.

The lawsuit accused Google of using anticompetitive practices to insulate its app distribution service, Google Play Store, from competition — forcing Android app developers to raise app prices for users in order to pay Google’s exorbitant fees. These practices targeted all levels of the smartphone ecosystem, including device manufacturers, network operators and app developers.

Each eligible consumer will receive at least $2, with additional payments depending on how much they spent in the Play Store between August of 2016 and September of 2023. An estimated 2.9 million Washingtonians have Android phones, though only those who paid for apps through the Play Store, or paid for in-app purchases, are eligible.

Washingtonians will receive an estimated $10.6 million in reimbursements for their overpayments all together.

“When companies illegally act like monopolies, everyone loses out on the benefits of healthy competition,” Ferguson said. “People face higher prices and fewer choices. Smaller businesses are forced out of the market — or have no way into it in the first place. This resolution stops Google from rigging the system and creates a more level playing field. We will continue to fight for a competitive marketplace that increases consumer choice, improves affordability and provides a level playing field for business.”

The lawsuit asserted that Google’s anticompetitive tactics included, among others, blocking non-Google Play Store apps from advertising on Google’s ubiquitous search platforms. These practices have helped Google dominate the Android app distribution market. Well over 90 percent of all Android apps are downloaded from Google Play Store.

In addition to paying $700 million, Google is also required to make several corporate reforms and changes to how it operates Play Store. Those include prohibitions on contracts that maintain the Play Store’s exclusivity on phones, allowing the installation of third-party apps on Android phones outside of the Play Store and making operating system improvements to support those apps, among other changes.

Case background

Ferguson joined 36 other attorneys general to file the lawsuit in July of 2021, accusing Google of forming an unlawful monopoly in the app distribution and in-app-payment services markets, harming both Android phone users and app developers.

Google owns Android, an operating system for smartphones, similar to Apple’s iOS. Android and iOS are the only two smartphone operating systems available to consumers. Because Apple only allows iOS on Apple devices, Android is the only operating system currently widely available to other mobile device manufacturers, such as Samsung and Sony. Globally, approximately 75 percent of smartphones use Android.

An estimated 2.9 million Washingtonians and more than 100 million people nationwide use a phone that runs on Android, Google’s operating system. An estimated 40,000 app developers live in Washington.

The states’ lawsuit asserted that Google unlawfully forced out its competition for Play Store and its payment processing service, Play Billing, in several ways. For example:

  • Preventing apps that aren’t offered on Play Store from advertising on Google’s platforms, including search ads and YouTube ads
  • Imposing restrictions that deter people from directly downloading apps or installing other app stores that would compete with the Google Play Store
  • Paying off device manufacturers and mobile network operators not to make their own app stores and instead preload Google Play Store and make it impossible to delete
  • Offering incentives to Samsung, a major smartphone manufacturer, to use Play Store instead of its own Galaxy app store
  • Sharing monopoly profits with large app developers to prevent them from making their own app store or moving their apps to a competing app store
  • Mandating that all apps on the Play Store also use Google Play Billing after their initial download for subsequent in-app purchases, forcing people to unknowingly pay Google’s up to 30 percent commission instead of the cheaper rates of competing payment services

Because of Google’s exclusionary conduct, even large, sophisticated content distributors like Amazon have failed to create a competitive alternative to Google Play Store.

Resolution details

As a result of the lawsuit, Google will pay a total of $700 million to the states. $630 million is set aside for consumer reimbursements through the states’ case and private consumers who filed a separate lawsuit.

About $10.6 million is estimated to be distributed to Washingtonians.

Eligible Washingtonians will receive at least $2, with additional money in proportion to their Google Play spending from Aug. 16, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2023. Washingtonians eligible for payments do not have to submit a claim. Payments will automatically be made directly to PayPal or Venmo accounts associated with Washingtonians’ Play Store accounts.  A settlement administrator will contact users for whom an automatic payment is not possible to arrange for a different method of reimbursement.

The remaining $70 million from the nationwide resolution will be split between the original bipartisan group of 38 states and Washington D.C. that filed the lawsuit, including Washington state, for civil penalties and to pay for their costs and fees associated with the case.

As part of the resolution, Google is also required to:

  • Give all developers the ability to allow users to pay through in-app billing systems other than Google Play Billing for at least five years
  • Allow developers to offer cheaper prices for their apps and in-app products for consumers who use alternative, non-Google billing systems for at least five years
  • Permit developers to steer consumers toward alternative, non-Google billing systems by advertising cheaper prices within their apps themselves for at least five years
  • Not enter contracts that require the Play Store to be the exclusive, pre-loaded app store on a device or home screen for at least five years
  • Allow the installation of third-party apps on Android phones from outside the Google Play Store for at least seven years
  • Revise and reduce the warnings that appear on an Android device if a user attempts to download a third-party app from outside the Google Play Store for at least five years
  • Maintain Android system support for third-party app stores, including allowing automatic updates, for four years
  • Not require developers to launch their app catalogs on the Play Store at the same time as they launch on other app stores for at least four years
  • Submit compliance reports to an independent monitor who will ensure that Google is not continuing its anticompetitive conduct for at least 5 years

Assistant Attorneys General Amy Hanson, Brooke Howlett Lovrovich, and Tyler Arnold with the office’s Antitrust Division are leading the case for Washington.

The Office of the Attorney General’s Antitrust Division is responsible for enforcing the antitrust provisions of Washington's Consumer Protection Act and federal antitrust laws. The division investigates and litigates complaints of anticompetitive conduct and reviews potentially anticompetitive mergers. The division also brings actions in state and federal courts to enforce antitrust laws. It receives no general fund support, funding its own actions through recoveries made in other cases.

For information about filing a complaint about potential anticompetitive activity, visit https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/AntitrustComplaint.aspx.

Other actions against Google

This is one of three antitrust lawsuits Ferguson has filed against Google. The others are:

The Washington Attorney General’s Office has also filed consumer protection and campaign finance cases against the technology company.

In January of 2022, Ferguson filed a lawsuit asserting Google uses a number of deceptive and unfair practices to obtain users’ “consent” to be tracked. As a result, it is nearly impossible for users to stop Google from collecting their location data. In May of this year, Ferguson announced Google will pay $39.9 million to Washington state as a result of the lawsuit. Google will also implement a slate of court-ordered reforms to increase transparency about its location tracking settings.

In 2013, Google paid Washington state more than $600,000 over alleged data privacy violations involving tracking consumers. The payment to Washington was part of a total of $17 million split between 37 states and the District of Columbia. Google also paid Washington state more than $135,000 the same year for unauthorized data collection through its Street View service. This payment to Washington was part of a $7 million settlement split between 38 states and D.C.

In 2018, Google paid Washington state $217,000 to resolve Ferguson’s lawsuit accusing the company of violating Washington campaign finance disclosure laws that require political advertisers to maintain information about those who purchase advertising and make that information available to the public. In October, Ferguson announced his intention to file a second lawsuit against Google after a referral from the state Public Disclosure Commission, accusing the company of continuing to violate campaign finance disclosure laws.


Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Media Contact:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov

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