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Google and Match Group reach settlement in app store antitrust case

It remains to be seen whether this will prompt a settlement with Epic Games, whether the game maker will enter into a similar agreement with the tech giant.

Google and Match announced today that they have reached a settlement agreement in the antitrust case that Match had been pursuing against the tech giant, even as litigation with Epic Games, the maker of the Fortnite game, continues. As part of the settlement agreement, Match Group, which owns dating apps Tinder, Hinge, OKCupid, and others, will be able to implement “user choice billing” by March 31, 2024. The feature allows users to pay using systems other than Google’s.

Spotify and Bumble were among the first testers of the new system, first introduced in November 2022. Since then, Spotify’s third-party billing has expanded to global markets, and Google is expanding user-choice billing to more countries outside of the US.

For now, the program doesn’t allow third-party app developers who charge users for purchases and subscriptions to completely waive the commission that Google requires. Instead, it offers a small discount to the standard fee of 15% to 30%. That discount is currently 4%, according to Google’s documentation. In addition, the program is still a pilot program and is not open to all developers; it only works in 35 supported markets for now. Google has not said when the program will become generally available.

As part of the agreement, Match Group will not be allowed to offer only its own billing system – it will offer its system alongside Google Play’s existing billing system. Users will be able to choose their payment method.

In addition, the settlement agreement includes a provision that Google will continue to work with Match Group in other areas where the companies are partners, including Google Cloud and the use of Google’s artificial intelligence technology. This suggests that the rift between the two tech companies caused by the litigation may have led to a more complicated relationship in other areas of Google and Match’s business.

Like Apple, Google has long emphasized that its commission structure is not based solely on its ability to process customer payments. Instead, it suggests that commissions help support the entire Google Play and Android app ecosystem, including hosting, app search, developer tools, and other resources needed to build a business on apps.

However, as big companies like Match and Epic have argued, they don’t need the same resources as other developers. Moreover, as Epic demonstrated, they can distribute apps and manage their payments themselves. They argued that they should then be able to interact more directly with their paying customers, and that Google was hindering competition.

“We are pleased to enter into a settlement agreement with Match Group,” a Google spokesperson said in a prepared statement. “This ensures that we can continue to provide our mutual users with the safe, seamless and high-quality experience that people expect from apps on Google Play, while preserving Google’s ability to invest in the Android ecosystem and provide value to apps throughout their lifecycle”, the company added.

Match noted that the parties have agreed to implement Google User Choice Billing in its apps by March 31, 2024, which will reduce commission payments from 15% and 30% to 11% and 26%, respectively.

It remains to be seen whether this will prompt a settlement with Epic Games, whether the game maker will enter into a similar agreement with the tech giant. If not, the companies intend to go to court next week to present their arguments.