Match Group, the company behind popular dating apps such as Tinder, Match and OkCupid, is suing Google over its restrictive billing policy on the Play Store. In its complaint, Match Group alleges that Google has “illegally monopolized the app distribution market” on Android by forcing apps to use Google’s own billing system and then slashing payments.
Match Group’s complaint responds to an earlier lawsuit that Epic Games filed against Apple in 2020, alleging that Apple engaged in “anticompetitive” behavior by, among other things, demanding a 30 percent commission on in-app purchases in the iOS app store. Although the final verdict was mixed, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rodgers was particularly skeptical of the payments monopoly claims. its payment system.
While Google says it has always required certain types of in-app payments through its billing service, in 2020 the company made it clear that it all apps that sell digital goods to use the billing system. Of course, this allows Google to collect up to 30 percent commission. However, Google lowered that percentage to 15 percent for the first $1 million a developer earns in March 2021 and later did the same for music streaming apps and subscriptions in October. Still, Match Group accuses Google of using “bait and switch tactics” for supposedly misleading developers about its payment policies.
“Google enticed app developers to its platform with the assurance that we could give users a choice about how they pay for the services they want,” Match Group’s complaint reads. “But once it monopolized the Android app distribution market with Google Play by stepping into the shoes of the most popular app developers, Google tried to ban alternative in-app payment processing services so that nearly every in-app transaction on Android.”
Match Group further states that Google wants to impose a so-called app store “tax” that it says “will come out of the pockets of consumers in the form of higher prices and the revenue that app developers would and would otherwise have to earn from selling their products.” their services.” It also claims that Google also benefits from “monopolizing the in-app payment processing market” as it allows the company to get their hands on users’ credit card information and identities that it can use to its advantage.
Match Group is part of the Coalition of App Fairness, a group of companies that includes Spotify and Tile, among others. Its aim is to combat policies it sees as anticompetitive, such as both Apple’s and Google’s rule banning developers from using third-party payment processors. In March, Google announced it was testing a way for Android developers to use their own payment systems, starting with Spotify. However, it’s unclear whether Google will still receive a commission from those sales and, if so, how much it will charge.
Google spokesperson Dan Jackson issued the following statement in response to Match Group’s complaint:
This is just a continuation of Match Group’s self-serving campaign to prevent them from paying for the significant value they receive from the mobile platforms they’ve 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 apps. Match Group is currently raising concerns from regulators about things like deceptive subscription practices, and with this filing, they continue to put money above user protection. Match Group’s apps are eligible to pay just 15% on Google Play for digital subscriptions, the lowest rate of the major app platforms. But even if they don’t want to comply with Google Play’s policies, Android’s openness still gives them multiple ways to distribute their apps to Android users, including through other Android app stores, directly to users through their website, or as apps. that are intended for consumption only.
Match Group’s complaint comes as both Apple and Google are criticized by companies and government agencies around the world. US lawmakers are addressing the issue of in-app payments with the Open App Markets app, a piece of legislation passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. If signed into law, developers can use their own billing systems and change other potentially anti-competitive behavior from Apple and Google, such as punishing a developer for offering their app for a better price elsewhere.
Outside of the US, South Korea passed a law last August requiring Apple and Google to allow developers to use other billing services on their apps. In addition, the Netherlands is still embroiled in a seemingly endless legal battle with Apple over its policy of 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.