Google pushes ahead with in-app billing policy in India, insists watchdog compliance

Google said on Wednesday that its Google Play's payments policy is compliant with the Indian watchdog's order and it is moving ahead with plans to enforce the policy in the South Asian market, weeks after some developers sought to suspend Google's in-app billing fee system alleging it was not compliant with the watchdog's directive.

"In 2020, we clarified the requirements of our Payments policy and developers in India have had considerable time to make the necessary changes to their apps. We're respectfully following the CCI’s October 2022 order, and in compliance with that order, we expanded user choice billing to all developers in India and updated our policy that went into effect starting April 26, 2023," the company wrote in a blog post.

Google said the service fee it accrues from developers allows it to fund the large investments it has made for the growth of India's app ecosystem. The company insisted that its fees -- 15% or lower for most developers -- is the lowest of any major app store and a 4% reduction in that fee for those who implement an alternative billing system "fairly reflect that Google Play’s billing system has not been used."

Less than 60 of the more than 200,000 Indian developers on Google Play currently could pay a service fee of above 15%, Google said, citing its own estimations.

In India, a key overseas market for Google where the company has deployed over $10 billion, developers will have three billing options -- Google Play's billing system, alternative billing system alongside Google Play's and pay on a consumption-only basis without paying a service fee. Google will start notifying developers about the change, whose deadline expired last month, it said.

The Competition Commission of India in October slapped a $113 million fine on Google, and directed the Android-maker to give developers the choice of using third-party billing systems in the country. A body representing a group of developers in India has argued that Google's new system still levies a "high service fee" of 11% or more to those who don't use its payments system.

"Most developers globally have already elected one of these routes. In India, now that the deadline has passed, we are informing developers in the country who have not yet implemented one of these options that we will be taking necessary steps to ensure our policy is applied fairly. We continue to comply with local laws and cooperate with local proceedings, as applicable," Google said.

The Wednesday update follows Tinder-owner Match and the Alliance of Digital India Foundation, the aforementioned group representing some Indian startups, asking an Indian court to suspend Google's new in-app billing fee system until the Competition Commission of Indian had a chance to assess whether Google was complying with its earlier directive.

Last week the Competition Commission of India confirmed it had begun an inquiry, according to Reuters.