Paytm CEO rallies app operators against Google over Play Store’s billing mandate

October 02, 2020 10:46 pm | Updated 11:04 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Representational photo.

Representational photo.

Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma doubled down in his bid to rally Indian app operators against Google over the U.S. company’s requirement that apps use the Play Store’s billing system for in-app purchases of digital goods, by firing a salvo on Twitter.

“Be the app that, you want to see in the world. Condition: If only Google let’s you be,” Mr. Sharma tweeted on Friday.

Last month, Google had briefly removed Paytm from its Play Store citing a violation of its policy on gambling. Paytm had at the time called upon the Indian start-up ecosystem and developers to “think the bigger question”. “As a start-up, we are running law-abiding businesses and building for India. Google and its employees are making policies which are over and above the laws of our country, and are arbitrarily implementing them,” it had said.

Several Indian start-ups have been exercised over Google’s notification on applications needing to mandatorily use Google Play’s billing system as the method of payment for access to features or services, including any digital content or goods.

Earlier this week, senior representatives from almost a dozen start-ups joined a call to discuss ways to deal with Google’s alleged ‘dominance’, including setting up an alternative to Google Play Store and seeking government intervention.

Industry body IAMAI, which counts Google as a member, had also in a recent statement suggested a meeting of founders, a community that it said was ‘on fire’ at Google’s announcement.

“Just because Google owns the gate and the gateway to the digital ecosystem of this country, they should not act arbitrarily and enforce their rules and regulations which are contrary to our country’s laws,” Vishwas Patel, founder, CCAvenues and chairman, Payments Council Of India, had said.

“Also, they cannot force Indian apps developers / owners selling digital services to compulsorily use the Google billing and payment system and charge 30% MDR,” he added.

“Prima facie, Google’s announcement even if legal is certainly not innocuous,” IAMAI had said in its statement. “For many founders of Indian start-ups this brings back fears of the not so old deeply problematic revenue share model between VAS service providers and telcos. Telcos took up to 70% revenue share from VAS companies on the pretext of discovery, marketing, collection. In India, 98% of people use mobile Internet, more than 90% of people use Android phones which gives Google control over many layers between customers and their service providers,” the industry body had said.

Google clarified on its blog that all apps distributed on Google Play offering in-app purchases of digital goods had always needed to use Google Play’s billing system. It added that less than 3% of developers with apps on Play sold digital goods over the last 12 months, and of this 3%, the vast majority (nearly 97%) already used Google Play’s billing. For those few developers who needed to update their apps, they would have until September 30, 2021, to make those changes. New apps submitted after January 20, 2021, would need to be in compliance, it said.

“We only collect a service fee if the developer charges users to download their app or they sell in-app digital items, and we think that is fair. Not only does this approach allow us to continuously reinvest in the platform, this business model aligns our success directly with the success of developers,” the U.S. firm added.

“As an open ecosystem, most Android devices come pre-installed with more than one store — and users can install others. Android provides developers the freedom and flexibility to distribute apps through other Android app stores, directly via websites, or device preloads, all without using Google Play’s billing system,” the Internet company said.

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