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Match sues Google after being denied same App Store treatment as Spotify

Match Group Inc. sued Google on Monday, alleging the search giant violated antitrust laws with billing rules for the Android app store, the latest salvo in a global brawl involving the mobile app industry.

Match MTCH,
operator of dating apps Tinder and OkCupid, alleges in a federal lawsuit that Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL,

Google has exercised monopoly power over the distribution of apps on its Android smartphone software, limiting developers’ ability to use their own payment systems in their apps.

“Ten years ago, Match Group was Google’s partner. We are now his hostage,” Match said in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. “Blinded by the possibility of obtaining an ever greater reduction of the billions of
dollars users spend on Android apps each year, Google decided to monopolize the
market to find out how users pay for their Android apps. »

Google and Apple Inc.AAPL,
have forced app developers to use their own payment systems, while reducing in-app purchases, leading to a backlash from big business paying billions to the two tech companies. Google recently made some concessions on its app store, including allowing Spotify Technology SA SPOT,
to use its own payment system in its application.

Read more: Landmark EU law could take billions from Apple and has already forced major change at Google

In the filing, Match said it asked Google if it could adopt the new “user billing” feature like Spotify, but Google refused.

“Less than a week before Google’s March 31, 2022 deadline, Google
announced a new ‘pilot program’ (misleadingly) labeled ‘User-Choice Billing’,” the lawsuit said. “Under this new ‘pilot program’, developers can offer a ‘choice’ of billing platforms, but with a catch: one of those options must be Google Play Billing and only Google determines who can participate. to this new program. So far, the only developer selected by Google appears to be Spotify, the popular music streaming service with hundreds of millions of active users. Match has asked to participate, but, despite the fact that Match offers giving users a choice of payment systems in its Android apps for nearly a decade, Google has refused, telling Match that User Choice Billing is just a “very early stage” pilot program and that it will could not confirm when or if it would be expanded beyond Spotify.

Google immediately hit back at the accusations.

“This is just a continuation of Match Group’s self-serving campaign to avoid paying for the significant value they receive from the mobile platforms on which they have built their business,” a spokesperson said. of Google in a statement to MarketWatch.

“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 with regulators about things like deceptive subscription practices, and with this filing they continue to put money before user protection,” the Google spokesperson said, adding that Match Group apps are eligible to pay just 15% on Google Play for digital subscriptions, the lowest rate among major app platforms.

Match has been an irritant for Google. The conflagration was sparked by a high-profile rebuke from the search giant during a Congressional hearing in April 2021. Jared Sine, Match’s chief legal officer, then told members of the Senate that Google had called Match the night before Sine’s testimony becomes public as to why his testimony differed from Match’s comments in his latest earnings call.

On the earnings call, Match executives said they thought they were having productive conversations about Google’s 30% fee for in-app payments through its App Store. In the testimony, however, Sine complained that Google had made “false pretenses of an open platform”.

The lawsuit is the latest legal skirmish between developers and tech giants like Google and Apple, which run the biggest digital stores, through which most apps are sold. Epic Games Inc., for example, sued Apple and Google over their restrictive app store rules. Match also made no secret of its objections to Apple’s App Store.

More: Epic vs. Apple could be a legal marathon as appeals race through the system

The App Store setup has led developers to accuse Google and Apple of imposing taxes on their sales, and prompted them to lobby governments for regulation. South Korea has passed a law requiring tech giants to allow alternative payment systems, and Congress is considering similar proposals.

In depth: what is a platform and what should be done? The answer could determine the future of Big Tech

Apple and Google say they can’t open their app stores to outside payment systems because it would compromise consumer privacy and security.

Read: Apple spent decades building its walled garden. He may be starting to crack