Google Clarifies Play Store Billing Amid Anti-Competition Accusations

By Bill Toulas / September 29, 2020

Although the spotlight of anti-competition accusations has remained fixed on Apple lately, Google hasn’t enjoyed any kind of immunity. The official app store of Android, the Play Store, is considered equally barring for app developers since it too has a 30% cut requirement for in-app purchases. Although this has been the case for a while now, some were bypassing it, and Google wasn’t going too aggressive against this practice.

Google decided to stop this now and gave app developers until September 30, 2021, to integrate its billing systems onto their apps, which means that the 30% cut could no longer be circumvented. This decision has reignited a new wave of objections and brought a cloud of uncertainty for app developers, so Google returned with a new blog post to clarify things.

First of all, Google informs developers that they are free to do as they please on other platforms, communicate with their users using ways like direct email, and even offer them alternative purchase options. What Google wants is to maintain the trust and security feeling that users get from the Play Store, so they want to impose consistency and strict guidelines on their place.

So, if your app is distributed on the Play Store and if it’s offering in-app purchases for digital goods or services, you have to use Google’s billing system. Of all apps on the Play Store, only 3% sold digital goods in the last 12 months, and among them, nearly 97% already use Google’s billing.

Related: ‘BlueMail’ Ousted From the Play Store and Developers Talk About Revenge

That said, there’s a very small percentage of developers affected by the recent announcement unless there is a large number of apps that hide the fact that they are selling digital goods. That would already be a violation of the Play Store guidelines, so there can be no complaints coming from their side.

An interesting statement given in this clarifying blog post is one that concerns the choice of third-party stores on the Android platform. Google says they are already working on making it easier for Android users to actually get third-party apps stores on their devices while still enjoying all the safety measures Android has in place. This is a game-changer, and Google says they are currently working on it, so we should expect something on that part with the release of Android 12 next year.

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