Tinder's parent company Match Group is suing Google

Match Group – the parent company of Tinder, Hinge, Plenty of Fish and OkCupid – is suing Google because of alleged anticompetitive practices. Match Group says Google forces app developers to use Google’s in-app payment technology. Google is fighting back, alleging Match Group is trying to avoid paying for the services provided on the Google Play app marketplace. 

Source: TechCrunch

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Nasro Djebbar
May 18, 2022 2:33 pm

I don’t have a dog in this race, nevertheless it’s nice to see Match Group getting their comeuppance. From a bad experience with them around 10 years ago I’ve always seen them as corporate bullies, using legal maneuvers to squash their competition. Ironically they allege Google is being anti-competitive but my experience with them tells me they were prepared to eliminate even the weakest signs of competition.

In 2013 I embarked on creating an app. I had no experience. I was just a kid with an idea. Little did I know working with developers would be one of the most frustrating experiences ever (lol!) and I’d get threatened with legal action. My app had nothing to do with dating but it triggered the Match Group that I used the word “match” in an international trademark application for it.

They warned me they would oppose my trademark application unless I added a limitation; that it would not be used in relation to the dating agency industry. I no longer have the email exchanges with Match Group’s lawyers, however I remember sending them a funny email about them having to pay costs for me going to the effort of altering my trademark application. They were not amused. I got a stern email back with the subject line: WITHOUT PREJUDICE that I would bear the costs of legal remedies.

In one of Match Group’s lawyer’s letters to me, they explained:

Trade Marks are an important and valuable asset to our client and as such it operates a Trade Mark Watching service… our client has, through the significant and substantial use of its brand, accrued significant goodwill and reputation in the MATCH.COM brand… We have presently been instructed to proceed and oppose the aforementioned Application [my trademark application], but this could potentially be avoided if you were willing to add the limitation “none of the aforesaid for use in relation to the dating agency industry.”

If we’re going by user reviews, I don’t think goodwill and reputation are the correct words to describe Match.com. My app had no revenue stream. It was nothing more than a pet project, yet I was getting threatened by a company that at the time was making over $800 million in annual revenues. I decided that getting into a legal battle about something I didn’t feel passionate about wasn’t worth it. I made the alteration as requested by the Match Group and didn’t think too much about it. In its recent legal battle with MuzMatch, a Muslim dating and marriage app Match Group tried to acquire, it reminded me of how Match Group was prepared to bully its way through legal means to eliminate competition. It’s with this memory that I’m satisfied almost 10 years later to see Match Group squirming against Google.

Match Group - Legal Letter.PNG
Robert Huot
May 21, 2022 5:53 am

This conflict reminds me of an important lesson. Building a business involves risk. Building a business on another company’s platform involves even more risk! When I heard about the conflict between Match and Google, my mind took me back to the early-to-mid 2010s when the idea of building a business on Facebook was thriving. Companies like Upworthy and Diply built fast-growing businesses by beating Facebook’s algorithm. Their articles and videos would regularly feature on my Wall and I’d be amazed by the magnitude of likes, shares and comments each of their posts received. These companies had come out of nowhere, challenging the idea that it takes years to build successful media companies.

However just as quickly as they rose, their downfall was swift. Clickbait was working too well for Facebook’s comfort. A change in the algorithm led to the swift demise of these companies. Where are Upworthy and Diply now? I don’t know either. At the time I remember one analyst describing the scenario like a sleepy bear rolling over and crushing that in its path.

The lesson of Upworthy, Diply, Distractify and so many others was that building a business on Facebook, or any other platform for that matter, was a risky strategy. A YouTube creator knows this all too well. Your channel can have some success at the beginning and you think you’re onto something. Then YouTube suddenly changes its algo without warning and you’re left with a tiny percentage of the views you once had.

This is why businesses and content creators need to consolidate their fan base. Don’t rely on YouTube’s notifications to let your fans know you’ve posted a new video. Build your own mailing list. There are tons of options from MailerLite to Mailchimp. One of the first lessons you’re taught about the stock market is to spread your risk. Don’t put all your money on one stock. The same applies here. Ask your fans to follow you on other socials. Don’t rely on one platform that could ban you without reason. Have a fan site or a Patreon. Or as some people have done, sign up to OnlyFans(!). The point is to hedge against the risk.

In the case of Match, which builds a variety of apps, there is little choice but to play by Google’s rules. Other than the Apple App Store for iOS users, there isn’t a viable alternative to distribute their apps to Android users. Personally speaking I don’t think it’s a good idea that Match is antagonizing the company it relies on to distribute its apps.

Jenna T
May 20, 2022 1:49 pm

The Google – Match Group fight is getting acrimonious. It almost sounds like a divorce case. In the lawsuit filed by Match Group in the US District Court / Northern District of California, it reads, “Ten years ago, Match Group was Google’s partner. We are now 
its hostage.” [Introduction, paragraph 2]. Both are fighting for the hearts and minds of the public. Match Group has created a website to inform people of the lawsuit, mockingly named End The Google Tax. The site does a good job of turning you against Google, arguing that Google’s fees force app developers to raise prices for the end user. There’s also a timeline that lists the various investigations in different countries of Google’s billing policies.

Of course Google won’t take these accusations lying down. Google has published a blog post, Setting the Record Straight on Match Group’s Cynical Campaign Against Google Play. It goes in hard on Match Group, so if you were feeling sympathetic toward them, the blog post will have you thinking twice. It describes Google Play as much more than a payment processing platform, providing security against fraud for example, and attacks Match Group as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘freeloaders’ that wants the benefits of Google’s investments for free. Instead of just defending itself, Google takes a swipe at Match Group (see what I did there? 😎), highlighting historical problems with their user safety.

Opinions are divided. Some don’t like Google’s monopoly power. Others think Match Group has had enough time to make changes. Whichever side you take, the PR will be of little value as it is ultimately a decision for the courts to decide. I highly doubt Tinder, PoF and the rest will be taken off Google Play. Both sides will have to accept the court’s decision, one happily and one reluctantly.

Irvin Blake
May 21, 2022 8:57 am

Wait a minute! Tinder, OkCupid and PoF could be removed from Google Play by 1st June? Where will all the scammers and catfishes go? Joking aside, Match Group has a lifeline in that the courts have asked Google to temporarily hold off on banning Match Group’s apps from the Play Store.

You went off on a tangent with FB. I’ll follow suit 😆 . I have said it before, Meta would LOVE to be in a position where it doesn’t have to rely on the App Store and Play Store for distribution of its apps. That is a huge reason why Zuckerberg wants the metaverse to work out. It had a taste of it in the mid 2000s when the Facebook.com website became so popular it didn’t have to rely on SEO like almost every other website in existence. It freed itself from the necessity to play by Google’s SEO rules. Being in the position Match Group finds itself in is Meta’s worst nightmare. It’s already had a taste of it when Apple introduced its Anti-Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature, wiping off billions of dollars in revenue for Meta.

I try to see things from both perspectives. I get how Match Group feels the fees are exorbitant. It feels like you are working so hard to make your apps successful and every month a large chunk of hard-earned money is taken away. It’s like a tax that is too high. There comes a point when you wonder, what’s the point of working on my business if so much money is taken away all the time?

Then there is Google’s perspective. As pointed out already, Google isn’t a passive collector of money. It works hard to ensure the Play Store is safe and stable. If it wasn’t a good platform, a competitor would have taken the spot a long time ago. Also you can’t go into a Pizza Restaurant, enjoy your meal and then complain about the price (which you saw on the menu before ordering!). I understand Match Group’s point that there are few alternatives to distribute their apps to Android users. But I also sense a hint of entitlement. The system is not ideal, sure. However Match Group is in the same boat as millions of other Android developers, and as such, they are not experiencing a competitive disadvantage relative to other app businesses.

Paulina Klaman
May 25, 2022 7:55 am

Google and Match have come to a compromise that lets Match Group apps such as Tinder and Hinge use their own payment systems. I don’t like the sound of this for 2 reasons. First, it sets a precedent for a very messy system where each app has their own payment process. I like the Play Store’s system. Tap on your profile image and select ‘Payments and subscription’. All your payment methods and subscriptions are listed there. If each app starts processing payments individually, there’s massive potential for confusion. Users being charged for recurring payments, not knowing which apps they’re still paying for, not cancelling payments with app deletion. At least in the Play Store’s system, it’s transparent and easy to cancel.

The second reason I’m not happy with the agreement is because Match Group is a big, powerful company in its own right. It has the power to damage Google’s reputation. As a result Google bows to the pressure and compromises. Spotify is another powerful company that’s had its way with Google, using its own payment system instead of using Play Store’s. I don’t like how these powerful companies can get away with things that regular companies can’t. Imagine an app that has a thousand downloads asking Google if it can use its own payment system? Google will either ignore it or swat it away. But if you’re a big dog like Match Group or Spotify, you can pressure Google to bend the rules. The message it sends is very clear and reminiscent of George Orwell’s Animal Farm:

Every app on the Play Store is equal, but some apps are more equal than others.

Play Store payments and subscriptions.jpg