Google removes some apps over billing row; developers call it a dark day | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Google removes some apps over billing row; developers call it a dark day

Mar 01, 2024 04:00 PM IST

Google obligates developers who want to list themselves on the Play Store to follow its payment policy

NEW DELHI: Google started delisting apps from Indian developers from its Play Store on Friday for not complying with its payments policy, beginning with Shaadi, TrulyMadly, Stage, Jodii, Bharat Matrimony’s Muslim Matrimony and Christian Matrimony, and Alt Balaji’s ALLT.

A logo of Google is seen on its office building in Hyderabad. (REUTERS FILE)
A logo of Google is seen on its office building in Hyderabad. (REUTERS FILE)

People will not be able to search for and install these applications from Play Store on their Android phones -- the operating system accounts for close to 95% of the smartphones in use in India according to some estimates -- and the number is likely to increase.

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The move, which involves apps from 10 developers, pertains to these apps not complying with Google’s payments policy which involves developers paying Google a service fee of 11% to 30%, depending on the option that developers choose, on all -- a charge that developers say is unfair, especially when they use non-Google billing systems

The company obligates developers who want to list themselves on the Play Store to use its payment system as at least one of the options. The policy was criticised by India’s competition regulator Competition Commission of India but the company effectively was cleared to continue with its practice after two Supreme Court decisions that rejected pleas by some of the start-ups.

“After giving these developers more than three years to prepare, including three weeks after the Supreme Court’s order, we are taking necessary steps to ensure our policies are applied consistently across the ecosystem, as we do for any form of policy violation globally,” Google India said in a blog post on Friday.

Bharat Matrimony’s Murugavel Janakiraman, called it a ‘dark day for the Indian Internet’. “Unlike 20 years ago when government’s laws determined what is going to be on the internet, now two companies — Apple and Google — determine what people will have access to,” he said.

TrulyMadly’s Snehil Khanor said: “It’s a dark day for Digital India Dream. These Big Techs have become the digital landlords of the digital ecosystem and wants us to pay them ‘lagaan’ (rent). Hardly any business in India even makes 30% PAT, but they want to earn 30% of our revenue so they can keep getting bigger at expense of our demise. Actually, it’s Google who is not complying with CCI order. Despite clear order from CCI to not restrict app developers using third party payment services and to not take any adverse measure against apps Google is forcing us to remove other gateways and only use google’s billing systems and pay them 15-30% commission.”

Both TrulyMadly and BharatMatrimony are among the 16 app developers that challenged Google’s GPBS, or Google Play Billing System, in Madras High Court. Two of them — Disney+Hotstar and Test Book — had been granted interim relief but the others, including InfoEdge and others filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court. On February 9, the apex court issued a notice in this case.

“The notice [from Google] does not say they were being delisted. It says if you are non-compliant then you will be delisted. We have been compliant since February 9 the date the Supreme Court order came out. There are no pending invoices from Google with us. All have been paid in a timely manner,” InfoEdge’s Sanjeev Bikhchandani, who owns Jeevansathi, said.

Google, in its blog post on Friday, said that ten companies had “chosen to not pay for the immense value they receive on Google Play by securing interim protections from court. These developers comply with payment policies of other app stores”.

“[A]llowing this small group of developers to get differential treatment from the vast majority of developers who are paying their fair share creates an uneven playing field across the ecosystem and puts all other apps and games at a competitive disadvantage,” Google said.

“In fact, in India, less than 60 developers on Google Play are subject to fees above 15 per cent,” Google said in its blog post. To be sure, of this number, 16 challenged this policy in Madras High Court.

Google has given app developers three options so that their apps are not delisted: consumption-only basis without paying a service fee, integrate GPBS, or offer an alternative billing system. HT has not yet been able to ascertain which four app developers that legally challenged the policy have complied with Google’s policy now.

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