Google’s ‘user choice billing’ should be called ‘Google choice billing’ : ADIF

BL Mumbai Bureau | Updated on: Mar 24, 2022

‘An admission of guilt and illusion of choice tactic’

Following Google’s announcement to start a pilot allowing a select few developers, including Spotify Technology, to use their own payment system in its Android app, Indian start-up industry body Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF) called it an “admission of guilt and illusion of choice tactic”.

Google, on Wednesday, added that Spotify users who have downloaded the app from Google Play Store will be allowed the choice to pay either through Spotify’s payment system or with Google’s own billing system in some countries over the coming months.

“This pilot will help us increase our understanding of whether and how user choice billing works for users in different countries and for developers of different sizes and categories,” said Google in a blog post.

Faces flak

The move comes at a time when the technology major is facing flak globally for its high commission rates and compulsory use of Google Play Billing for in-app purchases starting from March 30, and it will also soon restrict other payment gateways in its app store ecosystem.

“We, at ADIF, believe that Google’s move to allow select app developers to offer other payment methods – instead of mandatorily enforcing Google Play Billing – is a clear admission of guilt that the existing policy is unfair and discriminatory. User choice billing should be made a rule for all developers and not an exception for a select company. Extending this to only a few companies without much clarity on the terms & commission rates reeks of preferential treatment – again unfair & discriminatory,” said ADIF in a statement.

ADIF called “user choice billing” a misnomer. Sijo Kuruvilla George, Executive Director, ADIF, said: “This is essentially “Google” choice billing and has nothing to do with “user” choice. The fact of the matter remains that this announcement does nothing to address the underlying issues and concerns: the anti-competitive nature of the policy or the impending March 30th deadline for enforcing this policy. Moreover, the announcement coming in exactly a week before this deadline, must be called out for what it is – an arrogant attempt at headline management and a blatant disregard for the concerns that are repeatedly being raised by companies and developers the world over.”

According to ADIF, backlash from Indian developers and intervention by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) forced Google to extend the Play Billing deadline to October in India. However, for the rest of the world, come March 30, developers will have to pay high commissions and mandatorily use the Google Billing System

“With their measures and announcements, Google is trying to create an illusion of choice. We at ADIF urge for an extension of choice to all apps and an immediate extension of March 30th deadline for all,” George added.

George said that forcing app developers to use Google or Apple’s billing system for in-app purchases and charging steep commissions by the “two gatekeepers” of digital economy is unfair. Google’s latest move comes on the heels of a recent legislative action by the South Korean government against both the app store majors’ anti-competitive and restrictive practices of app store operators.

Published on March 24, 2022
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