For a few hours on September 18,2020, Google removed the payments app PayTM from the Play Store for violating its policies. The app was back, but it kicked up a storm regarding Google’s dominance and action. A few days ago, Google sent notices to food delivery apps Zomato and Swiggy to refrain from carrying out certain activities on the respective apps. The Mountain View based technology company also announced that it will enforce its policies and charge a 30% fee for all paid download of apps and in-app purchases. This set the cat among the pigeons and there has been discussions within the Indian startup community for a desi app store and against Google’s policies.
On 30th September, 2020, CNBC TV-18 uploaded a video clip of a discussion between anchor Megha Vishwanathan, GOQii CEO and NCore Games Founder VIshal Gondal.
In the video Gondal said that:
- He didn’t know where the 30% fee came from
- Google is known to implement policies arbitrarily (while also saying he doesn’t know the policies)
- Consumers are forced to use only this payment option only. He goes on to further mention that Google is only allowing the exclusive use of Google Pay.
We looked into these further and found the comments are misleading and lacking context.
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Looking at the first claim, the Play Store has had a policy of charging a 30% fee for all in app purchases and paid downloads. This is their previous policy, and this is their updated policy. Infact, Google charged a 30% fee when the app store was called Android Market. Android Market was launched in 2008 and was renamed to the Play Store in 2012. Support for paid apps began in 2009 and in 2012 it also launched in-app subscriptions. Infact, the GOQii+ app has been on the Play Store since August 2014, although it offers no in-app purchases that route through the Play Store billing mechanism.
Looking at the 2nd claim, Google Play Store policies are available on the website for every developer to access. Different countries have different laws and Google adapts to ensure compliance with local laws. The policy of charging 30% is not arbitrary, it has existed since 2011. Google in its blog has mentioned that 97% of the apps complied with the payments policy and it was enforcing the same on the 3% who didn’t, of the apps which are either paid or allow in-app purchases of digital goods. It has also given time till September 2021 to all developers to ensure compliance. The company has allowed apps to list on other app stores and choose which policy they would like to follow. As an open system, Android also allows side loading of apps.
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Additionally, Gondal also says that the new system only allows exclusive use of Google Pay and no other modes of payment. Google Play Billing is different from Google Pay. When a user buys something on Google Play, he/she can pay via Debit/Credit Card, Netbanking, UPI and even Carrier Billing – it is supported by Vodafone and was supported by Airtel. Google Pay is an independent app, separate from the Play Store, that allows payment via UPI and recently added Credit Cards.
Change in Google Policies: Before and After Fortnite Issues
Google had launched in-app purchases in 2011. But the company never enforced developers to strictly use its payment gateway, allowing apps to use other payment modes. But Google has now tweaked its policies to make sure that it gets its 30% cut from all the eligible in-app purchases. Google even said that it’ll put a ban on in-app purchases if the app developers failed to pay their cut.
Recently, a popular gaming app Fortnite faced the wrath of Google after it decided to go against the policies of the tech giant. The Epic Games-developed game had introduced an in-app payment system to avoid paying Google’s 30% cut. In response, Google pulled the app from the Play Store.
On the other hand, Google is trying to make it easier for users to download apps from third-party app stores starting with Android 12, which is coming next year. While Google hasn’t revealed how it’ll bring in the changes, speculations suggest that downloading apps from third-party platforms will be made easier so that users don’t feel like they’re doing something wrong when operating outside the Play Store environment.
Upon being pointed out by Newschecker, Vishal Gondal replied back to our tweet and gave his side of the story. The same can be found below.
After receiving a response from Vishal, we also responded to his queries and gave a point-by-point rebuttal. Our response to Vishal’s queries can be found below.
The entire discussion between Newschecker and Vishal Gondal can be found below.
It is clear from our research and findings that the statements made by VIshal Gondal were misleading and did not give the entire picture.
DISCLAIMER: Newschecker’s publisher Rajneil R Kamath worked in Google from 2011 to 2016. He worked across operations, sales and public policy and left the company to startup in July 2016. Since then he has not had any commercial or professional engagements with the company in any form.
NOTE: This article has been updated to include Vishal Gondal’s response and a link to the discussion.
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