© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Google CEO Sundar Pichai reacts during a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top officials and CEOs of U.S. and Indian companies in the East Room of the White House in Washington, United States, J
By Greg Bensinger
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – In federal court on Tuesday, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged that he sometimes marked documents as “privileged” and that he never turned off a setting that caused internal chats to be automatically deleted after one day.
Pichai was in court in San Francisco defending Alphabet’s Google against a lawsuit filed by Epic Games that alleges its app store policies constitute an illegal monopoly and tricked consumers into paying artificially high prices.
Lawyers for Epic Games, creator of the wildly popular game “Fortnite,” appeared to be trying to establish that Pichai and Google were hiding sensitive communications that could then be used against them in a potential lawsuit.
Jurors were shown an internal Google document reminding employees that “anything you write may be subject to legal review,” as well as one of Pichai’s chat logs in which he requested that the history is disabled, which means that messages would be deleted.
“I supported all of the recommendations of our legal and compliance team,” Pichai said during about an hour of testimony led by Epic’s lawyer. He largely stuck to one-word answers, but was occasionally chastised by Epic Games’ lawyer for straying beyond simple answers.
Pichai, questioned by a Google lawyer, denied ever trying to hide a document from a trial. He said he used the term “privileged” on documents to indicate “confidential” which was not necessarily subject to attorney-client privilege.
Epic Games alleged in its lawsuit that the App Store’s policies amounted to an illegal monopoly and caused consumers to pay artificially high prices. The company wants to make it easier for Google Play users to access additional third-party app stores and payment processors for in-app purchases.
Google said changing its systems would make its Android-based app store less secure and hurt its ability to compete with Apple. Epic’s similar lawsuit against Apple resulted in a ruling largely favorable to Apple – both companies appealed to the US Supreme Court.
Epic filed a lawsuit against Google in 2020 after “Fortnite” was removed from the App Store after the Cary, North Carolina, company allowed customers to pay for it directly, bypassing Google’s payment systems. which allow it to take a percentage of each transaction.
If jurors choose Epic, it could radically change the App Store business, in which Google and Apple have exclusive control over the apps available to consumers and take a roughly 30% share of in-app purchases and downloads paying.
Google has settled claims over its app store with dating app maker Match Group (NASDAQ:) as well as with US consumers and US states. Google is also facing an antitrust lawsuit over US government allegations of its search dominance and is expected to have to defend itself. on trial next year over its digital advertising policies.