Google ‘arm twisted’ us to remove a UPI cashback scheme: Paytm

Google Pay itself has been running a similar promotion, it says

September 21, 2020 04:06 am | Updated 10:06 am IST - NEW DELHI

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Calling the removal of its application from the Google Play Store ‘unjustified’, Paytm on Sunday alleged that the U.S.-headquartered technology firm “arm twisted” it to remove a UPI cashback scheme even as its own digital payments app — Google Pay, has been running a similar promotion.

Paytm also stressed that contrary to accepted practice, it was not given any opportunity to respond to concerns raised by Google Play Store.

“We maintain that our cashback campaign was within guidelines, as well as all laws of the land. We did not break any rules and there was no violation. It is not related to gambling in any manner whatsoever,” Paytm said in a detailed blogpost.

Responding to the allegations, a Google spokesperson in an emailed response said, offering cashbacks and vouchers alone do not constitute a violation of Google Play gambling policies.

Google had on Friday removed Paytm from its application store citing violation of gambling rules. The application was restored in a few hours after Paytm removed the cashback feature.

“Our policies don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting, including daily fantasy sports in India... In the case of repeated policy violations, we may take more serious action which may include terminating Google Play Developer accounts. Our policies are applied and enforced on all developers consistently,” the spokesperson said.

In a sharply worded post, Paytm said it was forced to comply with Google’s mandate of removing our UPI cashback offer and scratch cards to get re-listed. It said the “sequence of events” will be familiar to all Indian Internet companies since they face similar “arm-twisting and fear of Google’s dominance over India’s digital ecosystem every day”.

Paytm, which competes with Google Pay in the Indian market, said the Google Play Support team had written to it on three occasions with some concerns on a separate matter of Paytm First Games’ promotion through the Paytm app. “While we strenuously disagreed with the allegation that we are breaching the policy [and we disagree with the policy itself too], we immediately complied with the diktat that barred us from promoting our gaming subsidiary,” it said, adding that driving traffic or promoting fantasy sports is not gambling.

It said, “Conveniently, Paytm First Games can do a paid promotion on YouTube [which is owned by Google], but it is not allowed to do the same advertisement on the Paytm app, as per Google Policy.”

“We enforce our policies very thoughtfully to provide a safe and secure experience for consumers, while also giving developers the platform and tools they need to build sustainable businesses,” the Google spokesperson said.

Paytm also highlighted that Google Pay regularly runs similar campaigns in India. At the beginning of this Cricket Season, it started the ‘Tez Shots’ campaign under which users play a game to “score runs to earn assured rewards worth up to ₹1 lakh.”

“Presumably, such cashback campaigns of Google Pay are not in breach of Play Store policies, or maybe they are, but a different set of rules apply to Google’s own apps,” it said.

There is a bigger question here that the Indian startup ecosystem and developers should think about, Paytm said, adding that as a startup, it is 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 said.

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