Match Group, the company that operates dating apps such as Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid and many others, has filed a lawsuit against Google, accusing the internet giant of forcing it to use the Google Play Store’s billing system, paying royalties for subscription transactions. The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in federal court in California, accuses Google of violating federal and state antitrust laws.
“Ten years ago, Match Group was Google’s partner. We are now its hostage,” Match Group said in a press release.
Match Group said Google assured app developers that they would be able to choose alternative payment systems for their customers, only to do an about-face. The dating giant says its users prefer Match’s internal billing system and that Google’s system is “lacking capabilities.”
“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 said in a statement to CNET. “Like any business, we charge for our services, and like any responsible platform, we protect users against fraud and abuse in apps.”
Google went on to point out that Match Group was sued by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019 for failing to filter out fake profiles that may have incentivized users into paying for subscriptions. The lawsuit was thrown out earlier this year. Match also recently won a lawsuit against Muslim dating app MuzMatch over trademark infringement.
Match says it attempted to resolve Google’s concerns but was told that its apps would be removed from the Google Play Store by June 1 if it didn’t comply. The dating app maker’s lawsuit accuses Google of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, the California Cartwright Act, the California Unfair Competition Law and California tort law by demanding companies exclusively use Play Billing.
“They control app distribution on Android devices, and pretend that developers could successfully reach consumers on Android elsewhere,” Match Group CEO Shar Dubey said in a statement. “It’s like saying, ‘you don’t have to take the elevator to get to the 60th floor of a building, you can always scale the outside wall.'”
Given that 90% of app downloads on Android occur on the Google Play Store, Match says Google’s marketplace is the only viable app platform. Google said if Match didn’t like its terms, it could distribute its apps elsewhere.
Match says fees can be as high as 30%, which is ten-times more than those charged by payment processors such as Visa and Mastercard. Google says its high fees are necessary to protect Android users from fraud and abuse and that Match Group is eligible to pay 15% on Google Play for digital subscriptions.
“While Google has claimed that 99% of the developers subject to the Google tax will qualify for the lower rate, hidden by this statistic is the fact that not all in-app purchases qualify and some of the most popular are still subject to the 30% tax,” according to an FAQ created by Match Group regarding the lawsuit.
When asked about the high percentage rate of its fees compared with payment processors, Google said the Play Store does more than process payments, adding that the fees help keep the Android operating system free, fund development of platforms such as Android Auto and TV, security, app distribution, developer tools, and billing systems around the world.
If Match is forced to stop using its internal payment system, the company says it will suffer “irreparable damage to its customer relationships, reputation, business performance, and goodwill and its users will be harmed by increased prices and Google’s monetization of their data.”
In March, Googlethat would allow Spotify to offer its own in-app payment option alongside Google’s. This deal came after Epic Games, creators of Fortnite, sued both Apple and Google for not allowing its own in-app payment systems, meaning that every in-game costume purchase had Apple and Google taking a percentage off the top. Google and Epic Games have agreed to a trial in early 2023.