Google relents, extends payment deadline for apps | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Google relents, extends payment deadline for apps

By, New Delhi
Mar 06, 2024 06:46 AM IST

By Tuesday evening, all ten affected developers had at least one of their apps back in the Play Store, the platform where people on Android smartphones can install apps

The conflict between Google and a clutch of Indian app developers over the former’s payments policy for its Play Store appears to have reached a temporary resolution, with the American tech behemoth agreeing to reinstate the apps it had delisted, hours after IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw convened a meeting between both sides on Tuesday.

IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw convened a meeting between Google and a clutch of Indian app developers on Tuesday (ANI)
IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw convened a meeting between Google and a clutch of Indian app developers on Tuesday (ANI)

In the meeting, chaired and mediated by Vaishnaw, Google and the representing app developers came to a tentative agreement on two issues: first, Google and the developers will create a forum to reach a long-term resolution on the issue within 100-120 days; and second; while Google will enforce its payments policy, it will not collect the payments from the developers whose appeals are pending in the Supreme Court until a resolution is reached either through this new forum, a Supreme Court order/judgement, or an order from the Competition Commission of India, three people aware of the proceedings of the meeting told HT.

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“Delisted apps to be restored. Google and app developers will work in close co-operation with each other,” Vaishnaw tweeted on Tuesday evening after the meeting.

By Tuesday evening, all ten affected developers had at least one of their apps back in the Play Store, the platform where people on Android smartphones can install apps.

At least 270 apps appeared to have been delisted, although HT could not ascertain the exact number. A Google spokesperson declined to specify the number.

“In the spirit of cooperation, we are temporarily reinstating the apps of the developers with appeals pending in the Supreme Court. Google maintains its right to implement and enforce its business model, as established in various courts. We will invoice our full applicable services fees in the interim and are extending payment timelines for these companies. We look forward to a collaborative effort to find solutions that respect the needs of all parties,” a Google spokesperson said.

The ten developers against whom the company had acted are Info Edge (Naukri.com, Shiksha, Jeevansathi), People Interactive (Shaadi.com), Matrimony.com (Bharat Matrimony), Crescere (TrulyMadly), Alt Balaji (ALTT), Arha Media (Aha), Catchup Technologies (Stage), Mebigo (Kuku FM), Cold Brew Tech (FRND) and Verve (QuackQuack). Apart from these ten developers, two other companies –- Primetrace Technologies (Kutumb, Crafto) and Nasadiya Technologies (Pratilipi) –- had filed appeals in the Supreme Court but their apps were not delisted as they were complying with Google’s payments policy after the Supreme Court on February 9 refused to restrain the US firm from delisting the developers.

In the meeting, the app developers told Vaishnaw that Google does not charge Amazon and Uber a service fee for in-app billing because the policy exempts sale of physical goods and services and only applies to digital goods and services. There was also discussion about how Google should not be in a hurry to delist and instead wait for a resolution through at least one forum.

Under the contentious payments policy, developers have three options: opt for Google Play Billing System and pay 15% or 30% in service fee according to their annual revenue; opt for user choice billing where they can list a third party billing system (11% or 26% service fee to Google) alongside GPBS (15% or 30%) and the user can choose between the two; or operate on a “consumption-only” model where the developers will not offer any in-app payment options and instead direct users to a web store on the phone browser.

In first two options, Google also gets access to data about how these apps are used by the users. In the second option, developers say that since the user interface flow is dictated by Google, despite GPBS and the third-party billing system being listed, users tend to opt for GPBS. In the last option, despite not paying a service fee to Google, developers do not prefer that because it leads to significant friction in the user interface and does not convert users into paying customers.

Before they were delisted, the developers were offering in-app payments through third party billing system without offering GPBS as well.

In this interim 100-120 day period, at least one developer wants to go back to the old model where he opts for third party billing system without listing GPBS. “For the next 120 days, we will continue to use our existing model. The problem is that in the user choice billing option, the integration of GPBS is required using Google’s APIs that give it access to confidential user metrics. In this period, we will also look for ways to diversify our business and distribution models to move they away from the Play Store but frankly, that is a hope,” Vinay Singhal, co-founder and CEO of streaming service Stage, said.

Developers have also pointed out that in the European Economic Area (EEA), to comply with the Digital Markets Act, Google offers developers the option to opt for third party billing systems without offering GPBS at all. In the UK, Google has offered the same option to the Competition Markets Authority (CMA).

The Tuesday meeting with Vaishnaw was attended by Google India’s country head and vice president Sanjay Gupta, Aditya Swami (director of Google Play and Google for StartUps in India), and representatives from TrulyMadly, Stage and FRND, three of the ten developers whose apps were delisted. Representatives from MagicBricks and ShareChat were also present even though neither were their apps delisted nor have they legally challenged Google’s payments policy. Google is an investor in ShareChat.

Other affected developers were not present because the meeting was called at a short notice and only those who were in Delhi could attend.

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