On Tuesday, a federal judge in California sanctioned Google for not preserving chat records that were important to a number of lawsuits. These lawsuits accused the company of abusing its market power in-app sales. Despite a court order, Google failed to maintain its internal communication records, The Standard reported.
Judge James Donato of the US District Court for the Northern District of California sided with the plaintiffs in the suits and ordered Google to pay the attorney fees and other costs they incurred as a result of its actions.
The judge has not ruled out the option of imposing additional penalties on Google once all parties have completed their evidence collection.
Read more: DOJ Says Google ‘Intentionally Destroyed’ Chat Logs In Antitrust Suit
At the same time, Donato declined to issue terminating sanctions, which would have decided the case against Google based on its failure to preserve the chats.
The penalty was issued shortly after the plaintiffs claimed to have discovered a culture of concealment throughout the tech giant, implicating CEO Sundar Pichai in the deletion of evidence.
“Overall, the record demonstrates that Google employees who received a litigation hold in this case were unable or unwilling to follow the Chat preservation instructions, and sometimes disregarded the instructions altogether,” Donato wrote.
The judge’s ruling pertains to four antitrust cases where Google is accused of violating antitrust laws by using its market position in the Google Play Store to charge excessive commissions. The cases involve two tech companies, attorneys general of 37 states and the District of Columbia, and millions of individuals.