Google offers small app developers $90 million to settle antitrust allegations

Google has offered to pay out $90 million to small app developers to settle a class action lawsuit alleging the company’s Play Store policies violated federal antitrust laws.

The lawsuit alleged that Google enforced a policy that effectively forced developers to use its Google Play billing system — which for years had a default of 30 percent. count on all transactions. In July 2021, as a concession to smaller developers and in response to this lawsuit, Google reduced this fee to 15 percent for the first $1 million earned through an app.

According to Hagens Berman, the law firm representing the plaintiffs in this class action, some 48,000 small app developers in the US will be able to claim payment from the $90 million fund. Hagens Berman says some claimants could receive as much as $200,000, while the minimum payment is $250.

“Today, nearly 48,000 hardworking app developers receive the right payment they deserve for their work product — something Google was eager to take advantage of,” said Hages Berman’s managing partner Steve Berman in a press statement. “With this settlement, developers have more room to grow and more money in their pockets to promote their hard efforts.”

In addition to the $90 million fund, Google offers some small concessions to developers. It creates a new Indie Apps Corner to showcase “independent and small startup developers building unique high-quality apps” in the Play Store app, and clarifies the language in the Developer Distribution Agreement that makes it clearer that developers can contact users to tell them about our -or-app subscription offers and the like.

Google’s settlement (which must be approved by the court) follows a similar $100 million fund offered by Apple to developers over parallel issues with the App Store. That suit, also bought by Hagens Berman, included similar concessions that allowed developers to contact users and tell them about Apple’s platform payment options.

While both settlements are certainly a win for small developers, they fail to substantially change policy, leading critics to accuse Google and Apple of anti-competitive behavior. However, bigger changes could soon be imposed on both companies in the US and the EU through pending legislation.

US politicians are currently considering a bill called the Open App Markets Act that would force Apple and Google to allow users to sideload or install apps without app stores. (Google says it already allows this.) In the EU, the Digital Markets Act could also make sideloading mandatory, if it gets final approval from the European Parliament before 2023.