Google is inflating the price of apps and in-app content for millions of Android users in Australia, according to a new court case filed by the makers of Fortnite.
The tech behemoth has been accused of misusing its market power and engaging in other restrictive trade practices, in breach of Australian competition law.
Court documents filed by Fortnite creator Epic Games on Wednesday claims Google hinders or prevents app developers from distributing software applications to Australia's nine million Android users via any means but the Google Play Store.
It then usually charges app developers a commission of 30 per cent to process payments made for and through third-party apps.
"Google's conduct inflates the price for apps and in-app content for millions of Android device users in Australia," Epic Games says in its concise statement.
Google declined to comment on the Federal Court case on Wednesday.
The case resembles those filed by Epic Games last year against Apple in the United States and Australia, in which the iPhone maker was also accused of misusing its market power by forcing app developers to deal with hefty commissions.
However, unlike Apple, Google does not prevent phones with its operating system from running rival app stores.
Fortnite was booted off both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store in August 2020 after it allowed users to bypass the tech giants' in-app payment systems and pay lower prices.
Epic says Google achieves its near-monopoly via various contractual and technical restrictions.
Restrictions include forcing phone makers into an all-or-nothing situation with pre-installed Google-made apps and requiring the Play Store to be given prominence on the phone's home screen.
That creates a situation where the Play Store is pre-installed on 90 per cent of Android devices outside China and more than 90 per cent of Android app downloads occur through the Play Store, Epic says.
Apps can be directly downloaded from third-party app developers, but Epic says users are shown numerous security warnings and installing subsequent updates is "unreasonably difficult".
Without Google's restrictions, app developers would distribute alternative app-stores "without undue friction" and be able to use a range of payment processing options such as PayPal and Amazon Pay.
"Absent Google's conduct, these competing in-app payment processors would cause Google to compete on the basis of price, service and innovation," Epic says.
The first case management hearing is due to be held on March 24.
Australian Associated Press