Tinder developer sues Google over in-app payment monopoly

Google has been sued by Match Group, the company behind popular dating apps such as Tinder and OkCupid, over its restrictive billing policies on Android Play Store.

Match Group claimed that the tech giant “illegally monopolised the market for distributing apps” on Android by forcing apps to use its own billing system, and then taking a cut of the payments.

“Ten years ago, Match Group was Google’s partner. We are now its hostage. Google lured app developers to its platform with assurances that we could offer users a choice over how to pay for the services they want,” it said in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is reminiscent of Epic Games-Apple legal fight over the same issue on Apple App Store payment policies.

Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite game, filed a lawsuit against Apple in 2020, alleging that the iPhone maker engaged in “anti-competitive” behaviour by demanding a 30 per cent commission on in-app purchases in the iOS app store.

A federal judge in the US then directed Apple to let developers add links to external payment options on the App Store, denying the tech giant’s motion for a stay.

Although Apple largely won that lawsuit, the US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers sided with the Fortnite publisher, regarding restrictions on in-app purchases on the App Store.

In its lawsuit, Match Group said: “Google controls it all: the dominant marketplace for Android apps; the only means to purchase apps in the marketplace; and the messaging inside the marketplace so that consumers cannot learn of lower-priced options elsewhere.

“Google lured app developers to its platform with assurances that we could offer users a choice over how to pay for the services they want.

“But once it monopolized the market for Android app distribution with Google Play by riding the coattails of the most popular app developers, Google sought to ban alternative in-app payment processing services so it could take a cut of nearly every in-app transaction on Android.”

A Google spokesperson said that the lawsuit is “just a continuation of Match Group’s self-interested campaign to avoid paying for the significant value they receive from the mobile platforms they’ve built their business on”.

“Match Group’s apps are eligible to pay just 15 per cent on Google Play for digital subscriptions, which is the lowest rate among major app platforms. But even if they don’t want to comply with Google Play’s policies, Android’s openness still provides them multiple ways of distributing their apps to Android users,” the company stressed.

South Korea’s Cabinet in March approved a bill that would ban app store operators from forcing developers to use their own in-app payment systems.

Under the revised enforcement decree, app store operators will have to pay up to 2 per cent of their revenue for forcing developers to use their own in-app payment systems, and 1 per cent for delays in reviewing apps, according to the Korea Communications Commission.

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