Match Group is suing Google for Android app payment monopoly

Match Group, the company behind popular dating apps like Tinder, Match, and OkCupid, is suing Google over its restrictive billing policies on the Play Store. In its complaint, Match Group claims that Google “illegally monopolized the app distribution market” on Android by forcing apps to use Google’s own billing system and then taking a cut of the payments.

Match Group’s complaint builds on an earlier lawsuit Epic Games filed against Apple in 2020, alleging that Apple engaged in “anti-competitive” behavior by demanding a 30 percent commission on in-app purchases from the Match Group store. iOS applications, among other charges. Although the final ruling was mixed, Judge Yvonne González Rodgers was particularly skeptical of the payment monopoly claims, saying that Apple has the right to license its intellectual property for a fee and that it “achieves this goal in the most easy and direct” with its payment system.

While Google says it has always required certain types of in-app payments to be made through its billing service, the company made it clear in 2020 that it wants everyone applications that sell digital products to use their billing system. This, of course, allows Google to charge up to a 30 percent commission. However, Google lowered that percentage to 15 percent for the first million dollars a developer earns in March 2021 and then did the same for streaming music apps and subscriptions last October. Still, Match Group accuses Google of employing “bait and switch tactics” to allegedly mislead developers about its payment policies.

“Google lured app developers to its platform with the assurance that we could offer users a choice on how to pay for the services they wanted,” Match Group’s complaint reads. “But once it monopolized the Android app distribution market with Google Play by following the most popular app developers, Google sought to ban alternative in-app payment processing services so it could take a cut of almost every transaction. within the app on Android.”

Match Group further claims that Google wants to impose a so-called “tax” on the app store that it says “comes out of consumers’ pockets in the form of higher prices and revenue that app developers would and should get for the sale of their services. It also claims that Google also benefits from “monopolizing the in-app payment processing market” by allowing the company to get its hands on users’ credit card information and identities that it can use in its benefit.

Match Group is part of the Coalition of App Fairness, a group of companies that also includes Spotify and Tile, among others. Its aim is to fight against policies it considers anti-competitive, such as the rule by Apple and Google that prohibits developers from using third-party payment processors. In March, Google announced that it will start testing a way for Android developers to use their own payment systems, starting with Spotify. However, it’s unclear whether Google will continue to charge a commission on those sales and, if it does, how much it will charge.

Google spokesman Dan Jackson issued the following statement in response to Match Group’s complaint:

This is just a continuation of Match Group’s self-interest campaign to avoid paying for the significant value they receive from the mobile platforms they have built their business on. Like any business, we charge for our services, and like any responsible platform, we protect users from fraud and abuse in the apps. Match Group is currently drawing concerns from regulators about things like deceptive subscription practices, and with this filing they continue to put money ahead of user protection. Match Group apps are eligible to pay just 15% on Google Play for digital subscriptions, which is the lowest rate among major app platforms. But even if they don’t want to abide by Google Play policies, the openness of Android still gives them multiple ways to distribute their apps to Android users, including through other Android app stores, directly to users through your website or as apps for consumption only.

Match Group’s complaint comes as both Apple and Google face scrutiny from companies and government agencies around the world. US lawmakers are tackling the issue of in-app payments with the Open App Markets app, legislation the Senate Judiciary Committee approved in February. If it becomes law, it will allow developers to use their own billing systems, as well as change other potentially anti-competitive behavior by Apple and Google, such as punishing a developer for offering their app at a better price elsewhere.

Outside the US, South Korea passed a bill last August that requires Apple and Google to allow developers to use other billing services in their apps. Additionally, the Netherlands is still involved in a seemingly endless legal battle with Apple over its policies blocking third-party payment processors for Dutch dating apps.

Update May 9, 7:47 pm ET: Updated to add a statement from a Google spokesperson.

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