Match Group Sues Google, Google Bites Back

Posted on May 10, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Dev, Google with 6 Comments

Tinder parent company Match Group sued Google this week for abusing its monopoly power over Android app distribution. But Google quickly retorted in a public forum, accusing Match Group of a “cynical campaign against Google Play.”

“This is a case about the strategic manipulation of markets, broken promises, and abuse of power that Google has employed to illegally foreclose competition in the world’s biggest mobile device ecosystem, Android, and become one of the largest, most powerful companies in the world,” the Match Group complaint notes. “Google illegally monopolized the market for distributing apps on Android devices with its Google Play Store—making it today the only viable choice a mobile app developer has to reach Android users. Now, Google seeks to eliminate user choice of payment services and raise prices on consumers by extending its dominance to the separate market for in-app payment (IAP) processors on Android. It is conditioning app availability on Google Play with exclusive use of its own in-app payment processing product.”

The Match Group complaint is similar to the complaints Epic Games raised against both Apple and Google in 2020. But Google was initially lenient about third-party payment systems and is only now cracking down on that ability, wreaking havoc for mobile app developers, including big developers like Amazon. This is the source of Match Group’s “broken promises” claim, that Google engaged in “bait and switch tactics” to lull developers into complacency.

“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,” the complaint reads.

Google doesn’t see it that way.

“Match Group would have you believe that all Google Play provides is payment processing. This simply isn’t true, and Match Group knows it,” Google vice president Wilson White writes in a public policy blog post in an attempt to retort Match Group’s claims. “Match Group knows Google Play provides tools and a global distribution platform that helps developers grow their business. And Match Group knows this because they have used these tools and our platform to build a very successful global business. They want access to Google Play’s global distribution platform and users, they want to unfairly leverage Google’s substantial investments in the platform, and they want it all for free.”

The issue, White says, is that building the Google Play ecosystem is expensive, and Google has the right to charge developers for that service. The Android platform that Google serves has 2.5 billion monthly active users in over 190 countries around the world, and Google says that it has spent years building trust with those users.

Google also argues that its fees are the lowest among major app stores.

“Google Play is the first major platform to move away from one-size-fits-all pricing to meet developers’ different needs,” White continues. “Today, just around 3 percent of developers are subject to a service fee and 99 percent of those developers qualify for a service fee of 15 percent or less. Match Group’s apps, for example, are eligible to pay just 15 percent on Google Play for digital subscriptions, which is the lowest rate among major app platforms.”

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Comments (6)

6 responses to “Match Group Sues Google, Google Bites Back”

  1. lvthunder

    Good on Google for standing up for the right not to lose money on the app store.

  2. mikegalos

    So the "Match Group Sues Google" part of the headline seems right if a bit short in not mentioning that it's about abuse of monopoly power but the "Google Bites Back" part is a bit overblown for what's essentially Alphabet issuing a press release saying, "nuh, uh".


    It probably should have been more like, "Match Group Sues Google for Monopoly Abuse, Google Denies Charge"


  3. owenm

    Just like Apple vs Epic, both of these companies are terrible and deserve each other

  4. jhoersch

    Google and Apple should get income based on what they provide to the app developer - storage of the app, bandwidth to deliver the app/updates, time spent reviewing the app/updates, and development time of SDKs and dev tools. If the item that the user is purchasing in-app has nothing to do with these, then they shouldn't get a cut.


    For example, buying a book in the KIndle app from Amazon - if the communication is directly between the phone and Amaon's servers, and the book is downloaded from Amazon's servers and not Apple/Google's, then I don't see why Apple/Google should get a cut. Similarly for ProtonMail, you're paying for ProtonMail to process and store emails on their server. I don't know what you can buy in-app in Match's apps - ability to send more messages to other users? - but it likely doesn't involve Apple/Google's infrastructure at all.


    For two apps which have the same impact on Apple/Google's infrastructure, they should receive the same amount from the developer, even if one of the apps makes 100x more revenue through in-app purchases than the other. You don't see Microsoft taking a cut of developers' sales if they use Visual Studio to make the product. Contrast this with Azure, where the more resources you need in Azure, the more you'll need to pay.


    So what about super-popular apps that are otherwise free or deliberately underpriced, where the developer makes virtually all their money through in-app purchases? All Apple/Google would get from them is whatever flat rate they charge to be a part of the developer program/ecosystem. Well, that's Apple/Google's own fault. They're effectively doing the same thing, underpricing their developer program cost, hoping to make up for it via enough apps being popular enough to be purchases in the store and/or in-app purchases. Instead, they should change their pricing structure so that those apps with large storage or bandwidth requirements, frequent updates, etc., are charged based on what they actually use.


    Of course, this would discourage smaller devs or hobbyists; they don't know how popular their app is going to be, and they'd be charged more if it ends up being successful. This is unfortunate, but it's how any service-backed product works; the more popular an Azure- or AWS-based service is, the more you'll need to pay. It's really how most products work in the real world - your costs will increase as you gain more customers, and it's up to you to figure out how to price your product to pay your suppliers and your bills and still make a profit.


    Apple/Google can surely make different pricing strategies for different types of developers, similar to how Microsoft has Xbox Live Creators Program, [email protected], and probably custom relationships with the biggest developers. But what they're doing now is not fair to anyone.

  5. nbplopes

    I think digital businesses big or small should wake to this reality that seams ever closing down upon businesses. This is not about devs, any 10 year old kid is dev ... but businesses. Companies big and small that employ people, innovate so on and so forth ... the fabric of the economy.


    The reality wether society wants their kids to be born into a place where they cannot represent their businesses to their customers, directly in their property if not through an agent (a middleman). Of course there will be backdoors to this ... call it a web browser. But the reality is that Apps are businesses properties, assets.


    This in itself is a security risk.


    OS developers and device manufacturer are indeed building Trojan horses that embody the above practice across billions of people at clear sight.


    I'm not in law, but at some point there must be something in law defining Trojan horsing illegal down to the reasons point in the first paragraph. This is not about platform choice, because when it comes to serving customers there is no choice, business have to be where their customers are at large ... there is no choice about that.


    PS: MS tried the follow this path awhile ago and could not even vertically integrate a web browser ... these companies are given a free pass by regulators and politicians to vertically integrate basically anything. Apple seams to now be interested in selling groceries ...






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