I think I can speak for most people when I say that complicated legal cases are, well, usually a bit much for me. I couldn’t define the word ‘antitrust’ (although it sounds like something straight out of 1984) and I’m confused by the idea that Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on its own app store. So when news breaks and we’re told that Match Group is accepting alternative payments for its portfolio, my response is less ‘yay, a win for consumers’ or ‘oh no, what impact will this have on the markets’ and more ‘huh?’
I don’t have a lawyer on hand to consult with, so I packed up my best pipe and deerstalker and decided to do a little investigating of my own. Ok, ok…. I Googled it. From what I can tell, Apple was taken to court by a number of businesses working together. They use the app store to sell their products, and they include Fortnight(EPIC Games) and Match Group, who own numerous dating sites including Tinder, Match.com, Hinge and PlentyOfFish. Between everyone, they must have millions of customers, so this is an influential decision that will affect a lot of people.
Fortnight, Match Group and their other associates (who I’m going to refer to as ‘the FMG group’) wanted to be able to sell premium subscriptions to their users with ‘alternative payment methods’. Basically, the charge would not have to go through Apple’s app store, which takes a 30% cut of the money. In a particularly confusing twist, both sides claim to have won the lawsuit, but the FMG group can now send emails to the users of their apps and encourage them to subscribe directly instead of going through the app store. Match Group have said that they’ll pass ‘some’ of the savings onto customers.
This will probably make Match Group a lot of money. If we assume that a monthly subscription to one of Match Group’s sites costs (for example) $10 per month, and that through the app store Match Group would receive $7 of that, they can then offer a ‘reduced’ rate for their customers for $8 per month and actually earn $1 extra on their user’s subscriptions. The customer is also saving $2 per month and, because customers love bargains, they’re probably more likely to get a premium membership in the first place if they feel like they’re getting it at a discount.
I’ll be honest: I’m a little disappointed. Not about the case, but because ‘alternative payment methods’ just means money, but given to the same company in a slightly different manner. When I first heard the news, I assumed that Match Group was going to start bartering and that I could trot down to their headquarters with a nice chicken and then plug myself into Tinder’s premium features for a year. Which, to be honest, is the longest I would want to spend on Tinder. I do realise that, logistically, this might be an issue: I’d have to hand-deliver the chicken to the Match Group offices in Texas, which would probably involve getting on a plane, so I’d need to pay for that with a cow, and maybe I’d bring a pig along to trade for some snacks for the journey. Capitalism has some flaws, but at least I don’t have to bring half a barnyard in order to get laid.
Despite the judge’s ruling on the case, it seems that things are not finished yet. The CFO and COO of Match Group said in an interview that there are other things he plans on challenging Apple and Google about, both in the USA and around the world. No, I don’t know when Google got involved either, but possibly it’s because Google Play is an app store for Android phones. I told you things were confusing. Either way, companies (Google and Apple) with a combined net worth of $4112 billion might lose some money. I’m not too concerned for them, really.
So, to sum up: if you’re a user of Fortnight or any of Match Group’s companies, check your inbox because you might well be able to get some of their premium features for a slightly reduced price. Other than that, your life probably won’t change that much because of this ruling. Unless, of course, you’re the kind of person who likes to watch overpaid lawyers argue about the FTSE and the impact of commissions on absolutely huge companies. If that is your thing, grab the popcorn. I’m going to try Plenty Of Fish, instead.