Match Group is suing Google over Android’s in-app payment monopoly

Match Group, the company behind popular dating apps like Tinder, Match and OkCupid, is suing Google over its restrictive billing rules 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 part of the payment.

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

Although 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 wanted to all applications that sell digital goods to use their billing system. This, of course, allows Google to collect up to 30 percent commission. Google, however, cut that percentage to 15 percent for the first million dollars the developer earned in March 2021, and later did the same for music streaming and subscription apps last October. Nonetheless, Match Group accuses Google of using “bait and switching tactics” for allegedly misleading developers about its payment policies.

“Google has lured app developers to its platform with guarantees that we can offer users a choice of payment methods for the services they want,” the Match Group complaint reads. “But after monopolizing the Android app distribution market with Google Play by taking the tops of the most popular app developers, Google tried to ban alternative in-app payment processing services so it could take a share of almost every transaction within the Android app.”

Match Group further claims that Google wants to impose a so-called “tax” on app stores, which it says “comes out of the pockets of consumers in the form of higher prices and revenue that app developers would otherwise have to earn from selling their service.” It also claims that Google also benefits from “monopolizing the payment processing market within the app” because it allows the company to retrieve user credit card information and identities that it can use to its advantage.

The Match Group is part of the App Fairness Coalition, a group of companies that includes Spotify and Tile, among others. Its goal is to fight policies it considers anti-competitive, such as the Apple and Google policy that prohibits developers from using third-party payment processors. In March, Google announced it would begin testing the way Android developers can use their own payment systems, starting with Spotify. However, it is unclear whether Google will continue to charge a commission on those sales and, if so, how much it will charge.

Google spokesman Dan Jackson made the following statement in response to a Match Group complaint:

This is just a continuation of Match Group’s self-interest campaign to avoid paying the significant value they get from the mobile platforms on which they have built their business. Like any company, we charge for our services and like any responsible platform, we protect users from fraud and abuse in applications. The Match Group is currently raising concerns with regulators over things like deceptive subscription practices, and with this report they continue to put money ahead of consumer protection. Match Group apps are eligible to pay only 15% on Google Play for digital subscriptions, the lowest rate among major app platforms. But even if they don’t want to comply with Google Play rules, 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 a consumer-only app.

The Match Group’s complaint comes at a time when both Apple and Google are facing a review of companies and government agencies around the world. U.S. lawmakers are addressing the issue of in-app payments with the Open App Markets app, part of a bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. If the law is signed, 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 the developer for offering his app at a better price elsewhere.

Outside the U.S., South Korea passed a law last August requiring Apple and Google to allow developers to use other billing services in their apps. In addition, the Netherlands is still in a seemingly endless legal battle with Apple over its rules blocking third-party payment processors for Dutch dating apps.

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

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