Android phone users in the UK could be in line for £50 compensation after a lawsuit was launched against Google over its app charges.
Campaigners bringing the case are arguing that customers of Google’s Play Store have been overcharged for apps and services to the tune of £920 million and should be reimbursed.
The case, being brought by consumer campaigner Liz Coll, argues the way Google promotes and pushes customers towards using its Play Store breaches UK and EU competition laws.
If successful, the lawsuit could see around 19.5 million UK Android owners, who have used the Play Store since October 2015, eligible for compensation of around £47.
The case has been filed and is due to be heard at the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London.
The case comes as Apple is facing a similar £1.5 billion lawsuit for charges its customers have paid through its App Store.
Unlike Apple, Google does allow some apps to be downloaded on to its devices from outside its Play Store app service, although the process is more convoluted than going through the store.
The lawsuit argues that the tech giant steers people towards the Play Store, where many apps are charged a 30 per cent fee by Google on any digital payments.
Campaigners said in practice this meant that consumers paid higher prices when they bought services through the Play Store, as app developers look to recoup the cost of the surcharge.
The case argues that the Play Store’s 30 per cent surcharge is an “unlawful and unearned tax, imposed on ordinary people without justification”, for which they should be compensated.
Ms Coll, a former digital policy manager at Citizens Advice, said: “Google created the Android app marketplace, and controls it with a vice-like grip. Customers are herded towards the Google Play Store, and once there they have no option but to pay a 30 per cent fee whenever they buy an app or make an in-app purchase.
“Competing app stores, which could give the same service at a fraction of the price, never get a look in.
“Google is a gatekeeper to so many digital services, and it has a responsibility not to abuse that position and overcharge ordinary consumers.
“These hidden charges are unlawful, and Google’s customers deserve compensation, and better treatment from Google in future.”
A spokesman for Google said: “Android gives people more choice than any other mobile platform in deciding which apps and app stores they use – in fact, most Android phones come preloaded with more than one app store.
“We compete vigorously and fairly for developers and consumers – 97 per cent of developers on Google Play don’t pay any service fee at all, which means their apps are free to consumers.
“Less than 0.1 per cent of developers are subject to a 30 per cent service fee and only when they’re earning over $1 million – that fee is comparable with our competitors and allows us to constantly reinvest in building a secure, thriving platform that benefits everyone who uses it.
“This lawsuit ignores the benefits and choice Android and Google Play provide as well as the competitive market in which we operate.”