Exclusive-Tinder-owner Match ups antitrust pressure on Apple in India with new case
By Aditya Kalra
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Tinder-owner Match Group has filed an antitrust case against Apple with the competition regulator in India, accusing it of “monopolistic conduct” that forces developers to pay high commissions for in-app purchases, a legal filing seen by Reuters shows.
Apple is fending off a raft of antitrust challenges around the globe and Match’s July filing adds to two other cases in India though Match is the first foreign company to mount such a challenge against the iPhone maker in the country.
Apple and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) did not respond to Reuters queries, while a Match spokesperson declined to comment on its filing.
In the previously unreported India filing, Match argues Apple’s conduct restricts innovation and development of app developers that offer digital services by enforcing the use of its proprietary in-app purchase system and “excessive” 30% commission.
A similar dispute in the Netherlands resulted in a 50 million euro fine for Apple and an agreement to allow different payment methods in Dutch dating applications.
The U.S. giant has long mandated use of its in-app payment system, which charges commissions that some developers like Match have argued globally are too high.
Match argues in its India filing that users in other countries often prefer to use payment methods which Apple does not permit, and in India a state-backed online transfer system was preferred.
“Apple is therefore leveraging its dominant position in the iOS App Store market, to promote the exclusive use of its own payment solution,” Mark Buse, head of global government relations for Match, said in the filing.
In India, the CCI in December started investigating allegations from a local non-profit group that alleged Apple’s in-app purchase system hurts competition by raising costs for app developers and customers, while also acting as a barrier to market entry.
The watchdog ordered the probe after Apple denied any wrongdoing, saying it was not the dominant player in India where it has an “insignificant” 0-5% market share, arguing it was Google’s Android that commanded a 90-100% share.
The investigation will now cover each of the three separate cases that have been filed against Apple, according to three sources with knowledge of the proceedings.
Match’s Tinder is one of India’s most popular dating apps, and accounted for about 51% of consumer spending in the top five dating apps during the second quarter of this year, data from Sensor Tower shows.
In recent years, Apple has loosened some restrictions for developers globally, like allowing them to use communications – such as email – to share information about payment alternatives outside of their iOS app and lowering commissions for smaller developers to 15%.
“Such commission rate does not apply to the apps of Match’s portfolio brands,” Match’s filing stated.
Apple says in India, 87% of apps on its App Store are those which don’t pay any commissions at all.
Match has also complained that Apple considers ride-hailing apps in India such as Uber and SoftBank-backed Ola as those providing “physical goods/services”, allowing them to provide alternate payment solutions, even though they perform “a similar matchmaking function” like a dating app.
“Both dating and ridesharing apps share the same fundamental purpose i.e. matching two people online to meet in the real world … Apple has arbitrarily declared that the two are different,” Match said.
(Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi;Additional reporting by Munsif Vengatill; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)