Lawsuit Brought Against Google Over Quality of Apps

Get this, plaintiffs Dodd Harris and Stephen Sabatino have brought a lawsuit against Google claiming, “Google fails to test Android phone programs for its online store, and then will not refund customers who purchase defective apps.” They go on to equate this to unfair and fraudulent business practices, for which they want damages and an injunction.

Here are bits and pieces from their claim.

“Defendant engaged in deceptive and unfair practices by misleading purchasers of the applications into believing that all of the applications available for purchase in the Google Play Store controlled by defendant were in working order, were compatible with all Android phones, and functioned as represented.”

“Defendant controls the Google Play Store, the software for which comes preinstalled on Android phones, and retains a substantial portion (30 percent) of the revenue from the sale of each application as a transaction fee.”

“To the detriment of application purchasers, defendant maintained no quality control, safety parameters or regulations concerning the sale of applications in the Google Play Store.”

What made them so sour, you might ask? Well, Mr. Harris spent $4.83 for a “worthless” application to learn Chinese. Meanwhile, Mr. Sabatino spent $4.99 on a defective BitTorrent client.

“In contrast, the Apple iTunes App Store for the iPhone and the Amazon Appstore for Android both test the functionality of the applications they sell”

 “Based upon Google’s control over the Google Play Store, and Google’s reputation as a leader in the technology industry, purchasers of applications believed they were downloading safe and secure software from Google that would function on their Android phones as represented. In fact, many applications do not function at all or do not function as represented in the Google Play Store. Although Google is aware that it is selling many applications which do not function as represented, once a consumer purchases an application from the Google Play Store, it is almost impossible to return the application for a refund.

On the whole, they have filed suit for breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and unfair and fraudulent business practices.

I always find it unfortunate when someone experiences problems like this involving Android, but honestly, I’m not feeling much empathy for these two. To me, part of what’s great about the Play Store is Google’s lack of interference. I feel capable of choosing software for myself and I’m happy Google obliges rather than limiting my options. Besides, Google does actively remove malware that breaches their terms of service.

Also, the market prevents incompatible devices from downloading apps which won’t function, which leads me to wonder… What exactly is ‘”worthless” to Mr. Harris and in what way is the BitTorrent app defective for Mr. Sabantino? That isn’t discussed. Might they be running custom ROMs that are causing issues? There are a ton of free variables here.

Lastly, in respect to it being “almost impossible to return applications,” can I just say I have never once ran into this problem. Typically the 15 minutes gives me a decent look at the app and if it isn’t my cup of tea I simply click refund. Done Deal. I don’t see much impossibility there. Of course if you exceed that 15 minute trial period the button will disappear. At that point I would assume it would make sense to kindly contact the developer and explain your situation. I’ve done this on very rare occasions and a calm collected email has always sorted things out in at most a few days.

What do you all think? Have they got a good case?

source: CourtHouseNews


About the Author: Jim Farmer

Originally from Mathews Virginia, Jim is now residing in Newport News where he attends Christopher Newport University, majoring in Computer Science. He interns with NASA Langley by day, and scours the internet for Android News by night. In his free time, he enjoys stand-up paddle-boarding, pwning on XBOX Live, coding, or hanging out with his favorite gal in the world, Morgan. His hero is Dean Kamen, you know, aside from Andy Rubin, and as for politics he’s for Open Source, Net Neutrality, and Unlimited Data.


  • Abelard

    The plaintiffs are going to get skewered alive in the mitigating damages section of the lawsuit. Did they read the reviews?  Did they poke around the app for the 15 minutes and find out if they worked or met their needs?  Did they also remember to read the ToS regarding the market (especially the indemnification clause).

    What a waste of time and money.

  • J Keenan82

    Nooo!!!! Screw them, these are the costs of a free market open source ecosystem. Are there crap apps out there? Of course! Are there plenty of easy ways to protect yourself (see number of downloads, reviews, 15 minute trial, etc)? Yes!!!! If you are looking for someone to hold your hand throughout the smartphone experience, get an iPhone. Of you like freedom, go Android. And quit crying.

  • kman

    I didn’t have a big problem with Google cutting the refund window down from 24 hours, but chopping it to 15 minutes is just stupid.  It should be an hour or two.

    • Mikolajl

      I agree. Sometimes when I downloading bigger apps 15 minutes is not enough. An hour would be ok.

    • Elmo Clarity

      Sometimes it takes longer than 15 minutes to discover that the app just doesn’t work the way you expect it to. The only part of the lawsuit I agree with is the short refund window. If the app requires downloading of additional data, you can spend more than 15 minutes getting the app installed.

  • Idiots will be idiots..

  • It’s not Google’s fault that there are app developers that just want to make someone spend money on something that’s worthless. If these people want to file a lawsuit, they should go against the app developers and not Google.

  • Peace

    Not everyone wants to spend time sifting through the descriptions and reviews of many apps with similar functionality to find the one that really does the job. Developers also can claim what they like on the description of their apps. An “expert” should filter the remove the bad apps, this might be google as they share the revenue.
    Why do people become so emotional about this Andriod/Apple stuff I still can’t understand. We all pay for these products and should have value for money

    • Abelard

       Who qualifies as an “expert”?  What one person finds an app to be a dud, another may see it as a Godsend.  And it simply doesn’t take that long to do research.

      Do you just walk onto a car lot and pick one and pay and leave?  If you do, that is foolish.  You take a test drive and may even look at some online reviews or in Consumer Reports.

      If you aren’t willing to invest some time research products you are going to spend your hard earned money on, then PT Barnum had you in mind.

      • Peace

        I would spend more time researching a car purchase that costs thousands, not an application that costs a few Dollars. I’m not sure you can compare purchases that way. You have no means o testing the sellers claims for an app. unless it has a trial version. Your car seller will have statuary obligations to you. Who is responsible for a Dud app.

        • Whitney

          Well technically you can try it for fifteen minutes and then refund but that is admittedly not too long. Personally I prefer the free market.
          Side note, it occurs to me Google does sorta test some apps. They offer an editors choice section and give special badges of approval to top (trusted) developers.

  • Anonymous

    From Play Store ToS:

    “Our Services display some content that is not Google’s. This content is the sole responsibility of the entity that makes it available. We may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our policies, and we may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law. But that does not necessarily mean that we review content, so please don’t assume that we do.”

    Case closed. They even asked nicely! :P

  • RTWright

    I agree with everyone else about the 15 minute window here.  As I have had to purchase a app because of no trial version available ( TSF Shell ) only to find it wasn’t working to it’s level of advertised excellence it lead us to.  That was a hefty purchase, but once you download an app like that, you have to go completely through it to find everything that is working and not.  That takes more than 15 minutes.

    No offense to our Asian friends either on this, but when I sent them emails, about the lack of working functionality I got back responses that were in Asian language.  Which again brings up another factor.  You can’t always depend on the Devs to be able to communicate with you properly because of language barriers. This is not something I hold against them however, I do hold this against a 15 minute window.

    When you purchase most products from a store, you have a 30 day window in which to return product for exchange or refund with receipt in hand.  Granted digital products are downloaded and have the risk of being copied so upon return and refund the purchaser still holds a working copy of this said program.  So I understand the tight 15 minute window, but I do believe it should have been an Hour, not 15 minutes.

    This is the ONLY part of the lawsuit I can agree with, this is just another example of someone looking to sue Google.  I wonder, do these two work in secret with Apple? They seem to be that type! ;D

    • Johnsonrw78

       I agree totally!!!

  • rbfx4x

    I smell Apples. There is some total crap on the apple store too. 

  • Ernesto Orlando1

    As a runer of a blog about technology ( @techknowing_bg )I can’t believe what these people are doing. One of the great features that android platform has is the large number of apps available. Before purchasing an app at least you should read the rates and comments about it. Those are the parameters that tells you wich apps worth the purchase.

  • steve borsuk

    its not google problem