Google reportedly offered Netflix a special discount on Play Store fees

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Google has been accused of playing favorites in its treatment of Android app developers. The Verge reports a newly unsealed consumer lawsuit against Google alleges the company offered to take a “significantly reduced” cut of Netflix’s Play Store revenue in order to quell the streaming giant’s “displeasure.” Netflix, Spotify and Tinder all supposedly tried to get around the requirement to use Play Store’s in-house billing system, and deals like this were meant to keep Netflix using Google’s payment platform.

The same filing also includes a claim that Google’s normal revenue share is arbitrary. Where the company typically asks for a 30 percent cut of Play Store purchases, it apparently determined that it could break even with just six percent. Internal communications suggest Google chose the 30 percent share for no reason “other than copying Apple,” according to the lawsuit.

We’ve asked Google for comment. In a statement to The Verge, a spokeswoman maintained that developers were bound to the same policies as “all other developers,” and that there were efforts to back app makers with “enhanced resources and investments.” These initiatives were evidence of “healthy competition” in operating systems and app stores, Google said.

If the allegations are true, though, that wouldn’t be the case — Google would have given Netflix a sweetheart deal not available to other Play Store developers. The company wouldn’t be alone, either. Internal emails also suggest Apple offered Netflix perks it didn’t provide to others using the App Store.

Whatever the case, Google might not have much choice but to alter its practices. Apple recently softened the App Store’s rules as part of a proposed settlement, going so far as to let developers pitch customers on alternative payment systems — something Google still forbids, as the attorneys behind the unsealed lawsuit point out. Between these latest revelations and other lawsuits, such as those from Epic and state attorneys general, Google faces strong pressure to follow Apple and otherwise make concessions to avoid more serious legal repercussions.

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