Google Play’s in-app billing crackdown sure is causing a lot of conflicts with Android’s biggest app developers. Google recently decided to enforce a long-standing Play Store rule that says Google Play must be the one-and-only in-app purchase provider for apps downloaded from the Play Store, locking out developers from using their own payment solutions.
The latest huge developer that is unhappy with Google’s new policy is Match Group, the owner of Tinder and several other dating apps. Match sued Google on May 9 for “strategic manipulation of markets, broken promises, and abuse of power in requiring Match Group to use Google’s billing system to remain in the Google Play Store.” On Friday, the two companies reached an agreement to not restrict Match Group’s Play Store access until the lawsuit concludes.
The two companies put out dueling press releases, describing the situation very differently. Match’s blog post is titled “Google Concedes Key Issues on Google Play Policies,” while Google has a more stern title: “The facts about the temporary Match Group agreement.”
Match says that “Google made various concessions that Match Group demanded to benefit consumers. Those include guaranteeing that Match Group apps will still be allowed to offer users choice in payment systems, lessening the undue burden on developers by its previously stated policy, and eliminating Google’s complete control over user data.” Google says that this agreement was “at the court’s request” and that this is a “temporary agreement while the case is being heard and we prepare our planned countersuit.” Google even uses the word “temporary” in bold at one point. Google’s press release takes shots at Match’s press release, saying that “Match Group disregarded the stipulations it agreed to in court with a misleading press release that mischaracterizes what happened in the proceeding.”
Both companies say that Match Group will continue to process payments outside of Google Play and that “up to $40 million” of that money will end up in an escrow account. Google says this account represents “the service fees [Match Group] owes us,” while Match says “the fees Google is demanding for payments outside of Google Play Billing are illegal under federal and state law.” These two troubled companies will need to work out their differences in court, with the trial currently set for April 2023.
Match has a website up about the lawsuit called EndtheGoogleTax.com, which outlines the problems it has with Google Play Billing. In part, Match says Google doesn’t support the features it wants, like not offering bundles or paying subscriptions in installments, and limiting its ability to do special offers. It says the customer service is “inferior” because Google inserts itself in between Match and the customer, and it even hits Google on the privacy angle, saying: “Match Group brands do not sell users’ personal data. Google’s business, however, is built on selling user data.”
Google’s in-app billing policy technically went into effect on March 31, and non-complying apps can no longer ship updates. The real drop-dead date is June 1 (next week!) when non-compliant apps will be removed from the Play Store. As Google’s deadline for in-app billing compliance approaches, the lawsuits and backroom deals have been flying. Besides this latest lawsuit with Match, Google cut a deal with Spotify that basically exempts it from the ruling via a closed-off “pilot” program called “user choice billing.” Epic Games, meanwhile, seems to be on a mission to tear down Google’s and Apple’s app store model; it bought Bandcamp and sued Google a month later, saying the company could not survive under Google’s rules. Amazon and Barnes and Noble opted to remove in-app purchases from their Play apps entirely.