Unlockd enters voluntary administration, blames Google
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Unlockd enters voluntary administration, blames Google

Tech company Unlockd is entering voluntary administration in the middle of a heated legal stoush with Google, months after speculation the company was heading for a debut on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Unlockd, whose app allows consumers to get discounts on their telecommunications services by watching advertisements when they unlock their phone screen, has slammed the search giant for its demise.

Unlockd chief executive Matt Berriman launched the freemium-model app in 2016.

Unlockd chief executive Matt Berriman launched the freemium-model app in 2016.

Photo: Supplied

The Australian start-up was backed by high-profile investors when it launched, including Lachlan Murdoch, former Seven managing director Peter Gammell and Catch of the Day founders Hezi and Gabby Leibovich. The freemium ad-supported phone plan company signed a deal with US-based Boost Mobile worth up to $100 million in 2016.

But by early-2018, around the time of a mooted initial public offering, Unlockd hit a snag when Google said it had breached some of the company’s policies and would therefore be restricted from AdMob and the Google Play Store.

Unlockd disagreed its apps went against the policies, saying Google’s actions were anti-competitive, and sued the search giant, later being granted an injunction in the UK High Court to prevent its apps from being removed.

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A statement provided to Fairfax Media by an Unlockd spokeswoman said the “ramifications of Google’s actions have had and continue to have a deep impact on the business”.

“As such, we have not been able to secure the capital we had expected to replace the IPO and therefore have been left no choice but to move into voluntary administration,” the spokeswoman said. Unlockd had been intending to list on the Australian Stock Exchange, but previously said it had “postponed” the IPO “pending the resolution of this matter”.

“Until wide-reaching change is brought about to prevent companies like Google from abusing their dominant market positions, consumers and innovation will continue to suffer,” the spokeswoman said.

The board of directors are planning to continue to discuss investments and potential acquisitions.

Google declined to comment, instead pointing to an earlier statement where a spokesman said Google Play and AdMob’s policies “clearly set out how our products may be used”.

“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," he said.

McGrathNicol Advisory Firm has been appointed to manage the process for Unlockd. A spokesman for McGrathNicol said the company would make a statement on Wednesday.

Jennifer Duke writes about media and telecommunications.

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