Match Group is a leading provider of dating services across the globe, with its portfolio companies operating trusted brands including Tinder, Match, PlentyOfFish, OkCupid, OurTime, Meetic, and Pairs. This portfolio of trusted brands is offered in 42 languages across over 190 countries, including the UK, where many of its main brands are widely used.
For some time, there was robust competition in the digital sector. It produced new cutting-edge technology and reshaped how UK consumers accessed and interacted online. However, after years of consolidation and abuse of market power, two app stores now dominate the marketplace.
While Match Group is the leader in its field, it too faces the regular abuse of power by Google and Apple that have become commonplace, and where both companies have substantial and entrenched market power over mobile ecosystems.
For example, the CMA report on mobile ecosystems in June 2022 found:
Apple’s and Google’s control over their respective mobile ecosystems allows them to set the ‘rules of the game’ for app developers, who rely on their app stores to reach customers, and have little or no ability to negotiate over terms.
There are also ongoing CMA antitrust investigations into both Apple and Google for alleged anti-competitive app store practices.
The negative impacts at play are wide-reaching, harming both businesses and customers. Apple and Google:
- In the app store context, discriminate between “digital” (e.g., Tinder) and “non-digital” (e.g., Uber) apps, and impose an arbitrary 30% tax only on the former.
- Block app developers from speaking to their own customers, telling them how to get a cheaper deal, or even from knowing who they are.
- Block consumers from downloading a business’ apps from a website or a competing app store.
- Give special preferences to their own apps.
- Operate capricious and opaque app review processes (for example, Match Group’s portfolio brands have had important app updates held up by Apple).
So, what can disrupt these unfair practices? The DMCC bill.
Match Group welcomes the introduction of the DMCC Bill, and we urge Parliament to pass this vital pro-competition measure for the benefit of both UK citizens and app developers. Passage of this pro-competition measure will benefit UK citizens by encouraging lower fees, greater choice and flexibility, and increased accessibility. It believes that robust competition will only occur if the Digital Markets Unit within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is given the proper tools to tackle the market dominance unfairly exercised by Apple and Google over their respective mobile ecosystems.
The CMA has already conducted detailed research into mobile ecosystems and must be granted sufficient regulatory powers and organisational resources to address the significant issues that exist in the digital sector.
Furthermore, Match calls for the DMCC bill to pass while maintaining the Judicial Review system of appeals, without muddying the waters with either a merit based system or the proposed ‘Judicial Review +’ system. The Judicial Review system which is set out in the Bill, reflects a tried and tested system of oversight for regulators in the UK. The stakeholders who are arguing for a “Merits” appeal process are simply trying to undermine the effectiveness of the regime and enable protracted legal battles that will fail to deliver good outcomes for consumers.
Match are of the opinion that the DMCC bill strikes the right balance between regulating digital markets and encouraging innovation by focusing the new regulatory regime on the following principles:
- Pro-competition measures – aimed at creating a more level playing field and addressing the market power of a small number of tech firms and promoting competition.
- Data access and interoperability – granting the CMA the power to require designated firms to allow greater data access and interoperability.
- Consumer choice and control – including measures to increase choice and control for consumers, such as allowing consumers to choose not to share their data for personalised advertising.
- Open and fair market conditions – establishing conduct requirements to ensure fair treatment of consumers and other businesses.
The DMCC Bill serves as a strong, transparent statement from the UK government that it will not allow tech monopolies to operate unchecked and harm UK consumers.
The UK has historically been an incubator for new, transformative technology and innovation. For that to continue and grow, the UK marketplace must embrace competition and foster the growth of the next Google, the next AI, the next Tinder.
Government should take a similar approach when considering other tech legislation. We are very encouraged by the debate on the Online Safety Bill recognizing that monopoly tech companies are harming the cause of user safety and that this will no longer be allowed. The DMCC Bill sends a strong message that it is the UK government, not tech companies, that are establishing the rules of the road – hopefully providing innovative companies with a light at the end of the tunnel, and a way to thrive in the growing digital future.