On the heels of the government’s intervention, Google on Tuesday came to a middle ground, extending a gesture of cooperation with the feuding app developers by “temporarily reinstating” their apps and giving them more time to make their payments. This is expected to help both sides figure out a way to work with each other towards a long-term fix to the contentious issues around the Play Store Billing policy. 

Under this temporary new dispensation, the tech giant would continue to invoice the applicable full service fees in the interim, but extend the payment timelines so that the app developers can pay Google later. 

This latest interim relief is only for the 14 app developers who are part of the appeals before the Supreme Court. The apex court is scheduled, on March 19, to hear the arguments of the 14 app developers who had filed petitions before SC against a Madras High Court order that redirected the appeal of start-ups to the Competition Commission of India (CCI). 

Apps reinstalled will mostly come with in-app billing even as the app developers would have the final choice of opting for consumption model or in-app billing. However, Google will start enforcing its service fees right away by invoicing them. “In the spirit of cooperation, we are temporarily reinstating the apps of the developers with appeals pending in the Supreme Court. Google maintains its right to implement and enforce its business model, as established in various courts. We will invoice our full applicable services fees in the interim and are extending payment timelines for these companies. We look forward to a collaborative effort to find solutions that respect the needs of all parties”, a Google spokesperson said. 

Union IT and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Tuesday that Google has agreed to relist the apps with same status as on last Friday. “We have spoken to both Google as well as the start-up community. Google has agreed to re-list the apps with same status as on Friday, March 1, 2024. Google and India’s start-up community will engage with each other to find a long-term solution to all issues in consonance with India’s legal framework...”, Vaishnaw said. 

Meeting held

On Monday, Central IT Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Rajeev Chandrasekhar held meetings with Google and start-ups representatives to hear both sides and find an amicable solution to an issue which is currently before both Supreme Court and CCI. 

Both the IT Ministers understood the concerns of start-ups and asked the industry to set up a `forum’ with representatives from both sides (Google and the affected app developers) to resolve the matter, Ravi Mittal, Founder & CEO, QuackQuack told businessline. “A 100-120 day period has been agreed to come to an amicable solution. We want to ensure developers have freedom of choice in choosing payment gateways and gateway charges rather than being forced. This is required for long-term viability of apps for a thriving digital economy”, Mittal said. 

All eyes are now on the CCI to see how it intends to handle this issue after its February 21 hearing of both sides. The CCI order stands reserved. “Our optimism is buoyed by the government’s track record of empowering digital entrepreneurs across India. We are hopeful for a swift and favourable consideration of the pending case with the CCI, which will be a significant step forward for the digital economy,” said Prateek Jain, Associate Director, ADIF.