The parent company of Tinder and Hinge has sued Google. In a complaint (PDF link) filed Monday with a federal court in California, Match Group alleges the tech giant broke federal and state antitrust laws with its Play Store guidelines.
The lawsuit concerns a policy Google plans to implement later this year. In the fall of 2020, the company “clarified” its stance on in-app purchases, announcing it would eventually require all Android developers to process payments involving “digital goods and services” through the Play Store billing system. Google initially said it would begin enforcing the policy on September 30th, 2021, but later extended the deadline to June 1st, 2022.
Match alleges Google had “previously assured” the company it could use its own payments systems. The company claims Google has threatened to remove its apps from the Play Store if it does not comply with the upcoming policy change by the June 1st deadline. Match further claims Google has preemptively started rejecting app updates that maintain the existing payment systems found in its dating services. “Ten years ago, Match Group was Google’s partner. We are now its hostage,” the company says in its complaint.
“This lawsuit is a measure of last resort,” Match CEO Shar Dubey said in a statement the company shared with Engadget. “We tried, in good faith, to resolve these concerns with Google, but their insistence and threats to remove our brands’ apps from the Google Play Store by June 1st has left us no choice but to take legal action.”
In a statement Google shared with Engadget, the search giant said Match is eligible to pay a 15 percent commission on in-app purchases, a rate the company noted is the lowest among “major app platforms.” Google also pointed out that the “openness” of Android allows Match to distribute its apps through alternative app stores and sideloading if the company “doesn’t want to comply” with its policies. “This 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,” a Google spokesperson told Engadget.
The lawsuit comes at a time when both Apple and Google face significant regulatory pressure from lawmakers around the world to change their app store policies. In February, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the Open App Markets Act. Should the legislation become law as it stands, it would prevent both companies from locking third-party developers into their respective payment systems. At the same time, Match hasn't been free of scrutiny either. The company recently said it would stop charging older users more for its dating app subscriptions after a report from Mozilla and Consumers International found Match charged those individuals "substantially more."
In March, Google announced it was partnering with Spotify to test third-party billing systems. Notably, Match says that pilot offers “nothing new for developers or users.” The company also said Google rejected its request to be included in the program and would not share the criteria for inclusion.
Update 05/10/22 8:53AM ET: In a new blog responding to Match's allegations, Google calls the company's complaint "cynical," and accuses Match of "attempting to freeload off our investments rather than being a responsible partner." And in addition to highlighting many of the same points Google shared in its initial statement to Engadget, the blog post points to the fact the FTC sued Match in 2019 for using fake ads to trick consumers into paying for subscriptions.