The parent company of dating apps Tinder, Match and OkCupid is suing Google, claiming that the company exercises significant control over payments through the Google Play app market.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in California’s Northern District, accuses the company of spreading “anticompetitive tactics” to maintain a monopoly on the Android mobile ecosystem:
Ten years ago, Match Group was Google’s partner. We are now her hostages. Google has drawn app developers to its platform with assurances that we can give users a choice on how to pay for the services they want.
But once it monopolized the Android app distribution market through Google Play by riding the coats of arms of the most well-known app developers, Google sought to block alternative in-app payment processing services until they took up a portion of nearly every in-app transaction on Android.
Match’s lawsuit is the latest example of app developers calling for an exemption from Google and Apple over the standard 30 percent — now, sometimes 15 percent — cut that tech giants are extracting from in-app payments. Long-running tensions over the issue worsened in 2020 when Epic Games sued Apple for antitrust violations, a case that did not result in a clear winner but forced Apple to allow developers to direct their users to alternative payment options.
Faced with pressure due to restricted payment options, Google recently launched a beta program that will allow apps to offer an alternative payment option along with Google Play’s own in-app system. Spotify was the only company named as a participant in the beta program, and Match claims the company rejected its own efforts to sign up.
Meanwhile, Google has announced plans to crack down on apps that circumvent its billing systems, with a June 1 deadline set. In light of the deadline, Match Group CEO Shar Dubey called the lawsuit a “measure of last resort” for the dating app company.
“They control the distribution of apps on Android devices, and they pretend that developers can successfully reach consumers on Android elsewhere,” Dube said. It’s like saying ‘You don’t have to use the elevator to get to the 60th floor of the building, you can always climb up the outside wall.’ “It’s not legitimate.”
In a statement to TechCrunch, Google dismissed Match’s new lawsuit as a “subjective campaign” to avoid paying its fair share. “…even if they do not want to comply with Google Play policies, Android’s openness still provides them with multiple ways to distribute their apps to Android users, including through other Android app stores, directly to users via their own website or as custom apps For use only a Google spokesperson said.
Match Group is a member of the Coalition for App Fairness, a developer advocacy group that draws attention to the ways Apple and Google’s dominance of the mobile software market is negatively affecting app developers. Epic Games, Spotify, and Tile are other notable members of the group, which was formed in 2020 around the time Epic escalated its complaints.
Developers are tired of paying Apple and Google such a huge cut in their in-app earnings, putting more pressure on those companies, but governments around the world are increasingly paying attention to this issue as well.
In the US, a bipartisan open market law would open both the iOS and Android app stores, upending the combined grip of Apple and Google on the mobile software world in the process. This bill was moved from a Senate committee earlier this year and appears poised to continue its slow crawl toward becoming law.
Last week, a competition complaint in the Netherlands against the Match Group’s Google Play Store prompted a preliminary investigation into the company’s potential anti-competitive practices. That country’s Consumer and Markets Authority is also in competition with Apple over its app payments, and the regulatory group has ordered the company to allow dating apps to offer alternative payment options.