Unlockd delays IPO as Google legal stoush kicks off

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 17 April 2018
Unlockd CEO and co-founder Matt Berriman

Australian tech startup and mobile rewards platform, Unlockd, has filed for an injunction against Google’s AdMob.

The company has also been forced to postpone its decision to float its IPO on the ASX, with the start-up now forced to await the resolution of the matter.

In a statement released on the company's website, it explains that it has applied for the injunction in the UK High Court in response to Google's attempt to disable AdMob generated advertising content and removing Unlockd apps from the Google Play Store.

"Unlockd’s legal counsel has confidence that the threats made by Google to withdraw access and the supply of services in respect of Google Play and AdMob represent an abuse of its dominant position and breach of competition rules," the statement reads.

"It is particularly striking that Google’s warnings emerged at a time of speculation around an Unlockd IPO in mid-April 2018. Google’s anti-competitive conduct is preventing Unlockd from raising capital to continue its rapid expansion and innovation, and therefore protecting Google from a growing and potential competitor."

A Google spokesperson told AdNews it had explained its concerns and offered solutions to the start-up on the matter but Unlockd failed remain compliant.

“Our publicly available AdMob and Google Play policies clearly set out how our products may be used, and are designed to protect the interests of advertisers, publishers and phone users," the Google spokesperson says.

"We explained our concerns to Unlockd, outlined how they could fix the problems or use alternatives and gave them time to make changes. And despite having agreed at the outset to comply with our product policies, their app remains in infringement today.”

In response to the statement from Google, Matt Berriman, co-founder and executive director of Unlockd said Google’s threats to withdraw Unlockd’s access were a reversal from its previous position.

"We have received formal written approval from Google on two separate occasions validating Unlockd’s app for use with AdMob, and Google has also acknowledged that the app is consistent with their policies. Unlockd has not made any changes to the App that justifies a change of approach," Berriman says.

"The legal advice we have received is that Google’s actions represent an abuse of Google’s dominant market position and are intended to eliminate our innovative offering from scaling and being in a position to compete with Google. We believe this stifling of competition is harmful to consumers.”

The tech start-up, which has been one of the fastest growing in Australia, allows users to opt-in to view targeted ads, content and offers upon unlocking their smartphone, in exchange for 'rewards'.

A portion of the advertising revenue is returned back to users in the form of mobile data, credit off phone bills, entertainment content or loyalty points.

Earlier this year, CEO of Unlockd Matt Berriman stepped down from his role due to personal health and mental wellbeing, with Jane Martino stepping in to replace him.

In 2017, Unlockd scooped $US23 million in series B round funding, partnering with Malaysian-based telco Axiata Digital. The company has raised over $AU60 million in total.

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