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Google, Indian app developers agree to four-month pause in billing dispute

Google and Indian app developers will for four months pause their dispute over the technology’s major billing policy, the senior executive of a startup in the country has said.

The American company on Friday removed more than 10 Indian apps, including matrimony app Shaadi, for not complying with its policy of paying a service fee when in-app payment options other than Google’s are used on Play Store. It restored Shaadi and most other delisted apps after a pushback from the government and Indian startups.

Anupam Mittal, chief executive officer of People Group, which runs Shaadi, thanked union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Rajeev Chandrasekhar for their intervention in the dispute.

“Thanks to the tireless efforts of a handful of founders and your support, the Indian startup ecosystem sighed a sigh of relief yesterday when Google was compelled to defer its decision to impose monopolistic lagan (levy), albeit temporarily,” said Mittal on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday.

Mittal said most delisted apps are back up with in-app billing as before on Play Store. “A 120-day period has been agreed upon to come up with a solution that is non-monopolistic and reflects free-market forces,” he said.

Google on Tuesday agreed to temporarily reinstate delisted apps after meeting Vaishnaw, India’s information technology and telecom minister, and executives of startups.

The tech giant, however, said it will begin ‘invoicing’ its full applicable services fees in the interim, but was extending payment timelines for these companies, until a resolution is achieved in courts.

Vaishnaw, who has been a vocal supporter of startups on the issue, had also held another round of discussions with representatives from the affected startups and Google earlier, where he asked the tech major to reinstate the apps as they were on March 1, 2024, before getting removed from the Play Store.

Google, last Friday, announced that it had removed apps from 10 developers from the Play Store for alleged non-compliance with its user choice billing (UCB) system. These include apps like Shaadi, Bharat Matrimony, Balaji Telefilms’ Altt (formerly ALTBalaji), audio platform Kuku FM, dating service Quack Quack, and Info Edge group’s Naukri.com and 99 Acres.

Although the apps were reinstated within a day, they were running on what Google calls its consumption-only model, wherein any products or services, whether digital or physical, cannot be purchased from within the app.

Traditionally, Play Store levies a 15-30 per cent fee for in-app purchases and subscriptions for those using Google’s billing system. For developers that choose its third-party billing option, Google levies a commission of 11-26 per cent, marking a reduction of 4 per cent on the service fee.

Several companies reported a reduction of revenue of up to 40 per cent within one day of delisting, Business Standard had reported earlier. Business Standard

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