Disconnect.Me dispute with Google over Play Store leads to antitrust complaint in Europe
As Google continues to deal with the European Commission over a variety of claims that the company has become too large and is creating an anticompetitive environment, a new complaint has been lodged by Disconnect Inc., developers of an ad-blocking and privacy app. The crux of the complaint is Google’s decision to ban the Disconnect Mobile app from the Google Play Store. Disconnect is demanding their app be included in the Play Store along with unspecified damages.
Disconnect provides a service to protect “users from invisible tracking and malvertising, malware served through advertisements” according to a statement issued by the company. Disconnect makes their service available through apps for both Android and iOS systems as well as extensions that can be deployed on desktop computers. Disconnect has tried twice in the past year to get the Android version of the app listed in Google Play, only to see Google ban the app. The second time it happened, Google threatened to remove the company’s developer account, which would have impacted other apps produced by the company.
Google has responded to the complaint stating it is baseless. According to their statement,
“Our Google Play policies (specifically clause 4.4) have long prohibited apps that interfere with other apps (such as by altering their functionality, or removing their way of making money). We apply this policy uniformly – and Android developers strongly support it. All apps must comply with these policies and there’s over 200 privacy apps available in Google Play that do.”
Disconnect, founded by former Google execs, currently offers the app through their own site so users can sideload the app. They have also worked on deals to get the app pre-installed on devices, like the Blackphone provided through Deutsche Telekom. However, the company clearly believes they are losing out on potential revenue due to the lack of exposure from not being listed in the Google Play Store. In a statement, CEO Casey Oppenheim says,
“We want what the lawyers call ‘equal treatment.’ We want Android users to be able to get our products quickly and easily through the Play Store and we want to be fully supported by Google, just like other apps in the Store.”
Disconnect has not yet released the actual complaint with all of the details regarding the claimed impact from not being listed in the Play Store. They have also not launched any complaints outside of the European Union.
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