A competition complaint against Google’s Android Play Store by Match Group, the company that owns Tinder and a number of other dating apps, has led to a preliminary investigation by the Dutch Consumer and Markets Authority (ACM) to determine whether the tech giant is abusing a dominant position, the regulator said today.
Match Group declined to comment on the substance of its complaint – but the ACM confirmed it had received “an application request regarding the Google Play Store”.
“Dating app providers would no longer be able to use any payment system other than Google’s payment system. Additionally, dating apps claim they are also no longer allowed to refer to other payment methods,” the ACM also said in a short press release.
“Dating app provider [Match Group] asked ACM to assess whether Google is abusing its dominant position with these practices. ACM will therefore conduct a preliminary investigation in response to this request.
The regulator declined to answer questions about the complaint.
In his own statement, a Google spokesperson told us:
Like any business, Google charges for services, but Match Group apps can only pay 15% on Google Play for digital subscriptions, which is the lowest rate among major app platforms. But even if they don’t want to abide by Google Play’s policies, Android still provides them with several ways to distribute their apps to Android users, including through other Android app stores, directly to users through their site Web or as consumer apps only.
The ACM has been locked in a long battle with iOS maker Apple over its App Store payment rules as applied to local dating apps — which led to it ordering that Apple must authorize apps dating to use alternative payment processing services and issue a series of fines as the regulator ruled that Apple failed to comply with the order.
The fines rose to the maximum allowed by a related court order in late March – 50 million euros – when the ACM said it was considering a revised offer from Apple. However, according to Reutersthe regulator has decided that Apple’s offer still does not comply with its order and reports having been informed on Monday that the ACM is preparing a new order with new penalties.
The standoff between ACM and Apple has drawn high-level attention from the European Commission, with Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager hitting Apple for deliberately choosing to pay a fine rather than comply with February’s remarks.
This is notable because the Commission itself will be tasked with enforcing a new ex ante competition regime against the most powerful tech giants, which is due to come into force across the EU later this year.
The bloc’s lawmakers agreed on the final details of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in March – cementing a regime that will enforce a set of operational rules on so-called “internet gatekeepers” who are expected to slash the ability of Apple and Google micromanage how business users should operate on their app stores.
Under the new pan-European regulation, fines can reach 10% of annual global turnover for failure to comply with the initial obligations of the regulation. This means that DMA applications are both likely to move faster and be harder for Big Tech to ignore than traditional “ex post” competitive interventions.