(Reuters) — A U.S. judge in California on Monday allowed litigation against Alphabet Inc.’s Google LLC to proceed as a consumer class action by 21 million individuals who accuse the company of violating U.S. antitrust laws in the way it operates its Google Play app store.
U.S. District Judge James Donato said in a 27-page order that the plaintiffs had established the legal elements of “commonality” and other factors to form a class action alleging anticompetitive business practices.
The class members are individual consumers of the Google Play Store in 12 states, including Ohio, Michigan and Georgia, in addition to American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
The case is among a series of pending antitrust actions against Google, and state attorneys general in more than three dozen other states filed similar claims against Google last year. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the newly certified class action are working with these state enforcement agencies.
Nationwide, the plaintiffs have identified aggregate damages of $4.7 billion.
Google has defended its business practices in the Play Store and denies the claims in the case before Judge Donato and others.
A Google spokesperson said Monday: “We are evaluating the ruling, and after that we will evaluate our options.”;
Lawyers for the company at the US law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP on Monday did not immediately respond to a message for comment.
In arguing against certification of the class action, Google’s lawyers said the plaintiffs could not show how they were harmed, an argument Judge Donato rejected.
A lead attorney for the class at plaintiffs’ firm Bartlit Beck LLP declined to comment.
The class attorneys allege, among other things, that Google prohibited app developers from steering customers to competitors and used “misleading warnings to discourage customers from downloading apps outside of the Google Play Store.”
They argued that “but for Google’s anticompetitive conduct, plaintiffs and class members would have paid lower prices for apps and in-app purchases and would have benefited from expanded choice.”
A trial is scheduled to begin in June 2023.