Google to enforce clear Play Store in-app purchase policies

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Google announced that it is updating its Google Play billing policies to provide better clarification that which types of transactions will be subject to Google’s commissions on in-app purchases.

While the new billing policy does not change the earlier policy’s intention, it will impact a percentage of developers who don’t currently use Google Play’s billing system when selling digital goods in their app.

The company says that the current billing policies only apply to less than 3 percent of apps on Google Play. Of those apps, 97 percent already use Google Play’s billing library. There is only a small percentage of apps that will need to come into compliance under the clarified terms.

To make the transitions easier, app developers will be provided with an extended 1-year grace period to introduce Google Play’s billing library into their app.

Google said that it plans to give some businesses affected by the epidemic the ability to opt-out of their payment policies for the next 12 months. This could apply to businesses that had to move their previous physical services online – such as live events.

The company also announced that it will make changes in Android 12 that will make it easier for users to install and use third-party app stores as an alternative to Google Play on Android devices, without compromising Android’s existing safety measures.

Google also said it would not limit developers’ ability to communicate with customers, including about alternative ways to pay – in contrast with Apple.

Google added, “There is no hindrance or a limit on communication outside of an app in Google Play Store. For instance, there may be an offer via another Android App Store or website at a cost lower than Google Play. To maintain customer relationships we have allowed developers to issue refunds to their customers and provide customer support directly.”

The policy updates indicate how Google is responding to the growing regulatory scrutiny of its Android mobile platform and how it operates its Google Play Store. These cases have just recently been under the scrutiny of antitrust investigations in the US and other markets, where the government is trying to regulate if the tech giants are misusing their power via competitive trade practices.

Google’s app store business hasn’t received the same level of attention as Apple’s because it already offers users the ability to sideload apps. That means users can toggle with a setting to install apps outside of the Google Play Store. This means that users can turn on a setting to install applications outside the Google Play Store.

Google emphasizes that its policies are applied universally, even to its own apps. The company said, “Our policies function equally for any app distributed on Google Play. The policies are same for Google’s own apps as well. We use the same means and standards to decide which apps to promote on Google Play, whether they’re third-party apps or our own apps. We regularly promote apps by Google’s competitors and our Editors’ Choice picks when they provide a great user experience. Our algorithms also rank third-party apps and games using the same criterion, which is used for ranking Google’s own apps.”


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