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Tinder parent company sues Google over app store fees

The fight over the fees Google and Apple charge app-makers is a core part of the broader antitrust struggle

(Alex Brandon/AP)

Dating-app company Match Group, owner of Tinder and OkCupid, sued Google on Monday, alleging that the tech giant is breaking antitrust laws by requiring app developers to use its payment system if they want to distribute their apps through Google’s app store.

Google had allowed Match and other developers to use alternative payment systems for years but said in 2021 that it would begin requiring app-makers to use its system, which charges fees for each payment made through an app. Though Google’s Android operating system allows apps to be downloaded outside its app store, the vast majority of people use the official Google app store.

“Google lured app developers to its platform with assurances that we could offer users a choice over how to pay for the services they want,” Match Group’s attorneys wrote in the complaint, filed Monday in federal court in the Northern District of California. “Now, Google seeks to eliminate user choice of payment services and raise prices on consumers by extending its dominance.”

The fight over app stores and payments has been a central part of the struggle over whether big technology companies such as Google and Apple are unfairly weaponizing the power they have amassed over the past two decades. App developers such as Match Group, whose business relies on Apple and Google’s app stores, say they should not have to pay high fees to the companies on sales made through their apps. Apple and Google contend that the fees are a fair payment for maintaining the marketplace and working to keep apps from being attacked by hackers.

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Both companies have recently lowered their fees, in some cases after years of opposition and lawsuits. Google used to charge 30 percent for the first year of a subscription purchased through an app but dropped that to 15 percent in 2021. Google also struck a deal in March with Spotify, which makes the majority of its money through subscriptions to its app, that allows the music streaming app to use its own payment processor alongside Google’s. A spokesperson for Match said Google has refused to allow it to enter the program. Google has said it plans to expand the program over time.

Match’s lawsuit is an effort to avoid paying for the system that allowed it to build its business in the first place, said Peter Schottenfels, a Google spokesman. “Like any business, we charge for our services,” he said, “and like any responsible platform, we protect users against fraud and abuse in apps.”

The highest-profile opposition to the app store payment model has come from Epic Games, which has sued Apple and Google over their app store fees. In September, a judge ruled mostly in favor of Apple, saying Epic failed to prove that the company was a monopoly, while also ordering Apple to end its practice of banning apps from pointing customers to payment options outside the app. Epic’s case against Google will go to trial in 2023.