Dutch Watchdog To Investigate Google Play Store Practices

The Netherlands’ competition watchdog remains locked in a dispute with Apple, but now has opted to also investigate the practices of Google’s Play Store

The antitrust watchdog in the Netherlands has expanded its battle against big name tech firms, by opening an investigation of Alphabet’s Google.

The Dutch ACM (Authority for Consumers and Markets) announced on Wednesday a preliminary investigation into possible anti-competitive practices at the Google Play store, Reuters reported.

It comes after Tinder owner Match group asked the regulator to assess whether Google is abusing a dominant position in the dating app market.

Play Store probe

“Dating-app providers allegedly are no longer able to use a payment system other than Google’s payment system,” ACM spokesperson Murco Mijnlieff reportedly said in an email.

In a response, a Google spokesperson said the company charges customers 15 percent commissions for subscriptions via Google Play.

The spokesperson, according to Reuters, also said it was “the lowest rate among major app platforms.”

The spokesperson said app distributors can also avoid Google Play entirely by distributing their apps via other stores or websites.

This is a different approach to that taken by the Play Store’s main rival, the Apple App Store.

Apple clash

In 2019 the Netherlands ACM began an investigation into Apple’s practice of requiring app developers to use in-app payment systems and pay a commission of 15 to 30 percent.

The Dutch investigation was later reduced in scope to focus on dating apps, including those of Match Group, which operates Tinder, Match.com and OkCupid.

In December 2021 the watchdog made the decision that Apple must allow some app developers to use alternative payment systems.

Apple however disagreed and said it would appeal.

Despite that, Apple was given until 15 January to comply, and faced a fine of 5 million euros (£4m) per week, up to a maximum of 50 million euros if it failed to comply.

After Apple missed the 15 Janaury deadline, the ACM began levying weekly fines of 5 million euros on Apple.

In late February Apple in a letter to the Dutch consumer affairs regulator argued that it has complied with the order to allow certain apps to use alternative payment methods.

To date, Apple has racked up fines totalling 50 million euros – the maximum possible under the current court decision.

At the end of March, the ACM insisted Apple had still not fully compiled with its order to open App Store payment options

And according to Reuters, the ACM on Monday said the most recent proposals by Apple to remedy the situation, on 30 March, were still not sufficient and it is preparing a new order with new payment penalties.

“Once we have published this new order subject to periodic penalty payments, we can comment on the contents thereof as well as on the points on which Apple is still in non-compliance. That may take several weeks,” the ACM was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Apple has said it believes it has already sufficiently complied with the ACM’s orders and declined further comment.