The king of dating Match (Tinder, Meetic) attacks Google for abuse of a dominant position

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Les utilisateurs de Tinder peuvent depuis des années régler leurs achats et abonnements avec un système de paiement différent de celui de Google

A new legal front has just opened up in the battle between developers and app stores. On Monday, the world’s No. 1 online dating app, Match Group, sued Google in US federal court. The parent company of Tinder, Meetic, Hinge and even OKCupid accuses Google of abusing its dominant position in the distribution of applications to impose its payment solution – and the payment of commissions of between 15 and 30% on all transactions at inside his store.

For years, Match Group has offered its own payment solution to users of its services. But Google intends to put an end to this practice. In September 2020, the group had “clarified” the rules of its store and warned developers that only its solution would now be authorized. Google had given apps two years to comply or risk being banned from the Play Store. The deadline has been extended by six months, to 1er next June. It is now imminent and pushes Match to go to court.

A big deal

“Ten years ago, Match Group was Google’s partner. We are now his hostage,” the group’s complaint reads. The king of dating accuses the Mountain View giant of having consolidated its grip on the distribution of apps in Android by relying on the most popular developers, to whom he would have “given assurances” concerning the freedom to use their own payment systems, before finally imposing its own – and the associated fees – on them.

Match Group ensures that the possibility of using its own payment system gives it more flexibility – such as the possibility of offering installment payment for subscriptions or even specific promotional offers. The king of dating also explains that he thus keeps control of the precious data of his users, which he accuses Google of wanting to recover for the benefit of its advertising activity.

But the file is above all a matter of big money. “Google’s efforts to deprive users of the choice of their payment platform are motivated by greed”, denounces Match Group, assuring that “the Google ‘tax’ is almost 10 times higher than the actual fees charged by payment organizations. payment on comparable and competitive marketplaces”.

Ineffective alternatives

In its defence, Google returns the accusation of greed to the sender: “it is simply the continuation of Match Group’s campaign in favor of its own interests to avoid paying in exchange for the significant value they receive mobile platforms on which they have built their business” – while the online dating specialist is eligible for the reduced rate of 15% applicable to subscriptions – “the lowest rate of the major application platforms”. Like its major competitor Apple, Google ensures that commissions pay for the provision, maintenance and security of its app store.

Google adds that other alternative stores exist on Android, where developers are free to do as they please. “It’s like saying you don’t have to take the elevator to the 60th floor of a building; you can just scale the facade,” Match Group taunts. The king of dating points out that the “Play Store” dominates the distribution market in the Android ecosystem and that it is economically impossible to give it up.

Wave of recriminations

The Match Group complaint adds to the rising wave of recriminations against the very closed and very profitable model of the Google and Apple app stores. In the United States, a similar lawsuit brought by Epic, the publisher of the Fortnite game, against Apple resulted in a first landmark decision in September. The court found that Apple was not in a dominant position, but denied it the right to impose its payment system. A legal text, the “Open App Markets App”, is also under discussion and could lead to significant opening measures. South Korea, for its part, has already legislated and imposed on Apple and Google to authorize third-party payment systems in their app stores.

In Europe, Apple was formally accused last year of abuse of dominance following a complaint from Swedish music streaming giant Spotify. It is also Spotify that will test a “pilot program” announced at the end of March by Google to… use third-party payment systems in the Play Store. Enough to make Match Group cough, which claims not to have been authorized to participate in the experiment: “at the very moment when Google is ending Match Group’s historical possibility of offering users a choice of payment systems, it is offering to Spotify the opportunity to do so for the first time, while refusing other requests to participate because the concept is “too new”.

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