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Tinder owner Match Group settles antitrust claims against Google’s app store

By Brian Fung, CNN

Washington, DC (CNN) — Online dating giant Match Group has dropped a closely watched antitrust lawsuit against Google’s app store, the two companies said Tuesday, days before a trial set to begin in San Francisco federal court.

The settlement between the search giant and the owner of sites such as Match, Tinder and Hinge resolves allegations that Google harmed competition through its app store terms. It permits Match Group to provide users alternative ways to pay for in-app content without requiring them to use Google’s proprietary payment channels.

The agreement shows how Google has been able to winnow down the number of plaintiffs it will have to face in the upcoming trial, expected to begin on Monday. Last month a group of 52 attorneys general agreed to drop their participation in the case following another settlement, terms of which have not been made public.

That leaves Epic Games, maker of the hit video game “Fortnite,” as Google’s remaining foe in a high-profile trial about the control that app store owners can exercise over app developers.

Developer complaints about high app store fees — charged by app store owners such as Google — have reached a fever pitch in recent years, along with related allegations about other restrictive app store terms. In 2020, Epic Games sued Apple and Google in two closely watched antitrust cases; the Apple case could soon be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Last year, Match filed its own suit against Google and the cases against the search giant were merged.

The outcome of the app store cases could shape the livelihoods of app developers and determine the flow of billions of dollars in economic activity.

As part of the settlement with Match, Google agreed to include Match’s apps in its user choice billing program, which launched to a small number of Android developers last year.

The program will allow Match to offer its own payment channels to users featuring lower in-app payment fees than what Google charges for subscriptions and one-off transactions, according to a Match shareholder letter on Tuesday outlining the settlement.

Match’s apps will still support Google’s payment channels at checkout and transactions processed through those channels will be subject to Google’s standard in-app payment fees of 15% on subscriptions and 30% on standalone purchases, the letter added. But the in-app payment fees linked to Match’s channels will be 11% and 26%, respectively.

In addition, $40 million held in escrow for the litigation will be returned to Match, the letter said.

“We are pleased to reach a settlement agreement with Match Group,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “This ensures we can continue to provide our shared users the secure, seamless and high-quality experience people expect from apps on Google Play while maintaining Google’s ability to invest in the Android ecosystem and deliver value across an app’s full lifecycle.”

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney remained defiant in the face of the Match settlement.

“Epic will go to trial against Google alone,” Sweeney vowed in a post on X.
“We reject Google’s so-called ‘user choice billing,’ in which Google controls, surveils, and taxes transactions between users and developers.”

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Business/Consumer

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