CCI order: Google indefinitely postpones mandatory Play Billing System for developers

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Google has said that it is pausing the implementation of Google Play billing system (GPBS) for developers in India. The development is relevant to Indian gaming industry as Google continues with onboarding fantasy and rummy apps under a one year pilot announced in September.

This comes after the Competition Commission of India (CCI) imposed a penalty of Rs 2,274 crore in two cases and an immediate cease-and-desist order of its policies of running the Android Mobile device and Play Store ecosystem dealing with smartphone manufacturers and mobile application developers, respectively.

Google in September 2020 said all app developers selling digital goods through PlayStore listed applications must mandatorily use its payment system that provides Google a cut of in-app purchases. The initial implementation timeline was September 30, 2021, which was later extended to March 31, 2022. This date was last extended to October 31, 2022.

If the app developers do not comply with GPBS requirements, they are not permitted to list their apps on Play Store if the system is implemented. Now the implementation date is shifted indefinitely.

In a statement statement, the company said, “Following the CCI’s recent ruling, we are pausing enforcement of the requirement for developers to use Google Play’s billing system for the purchase of digital goods and services for transactions by users in India. We will review our legal options and ensure we can continue to invest in Android and Play.”

The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), a New Delhi based think tank consisting of Indian entrepreneurs and startups, in 2021 approached CCI to seek interim relief against the implementation of the Google Play Store commission till the investigation into the tech giant’s abuse of dominance is complete. With CCI orders out now in favour of developers, AIDF has now filed caveat with NCLAT seeking right to be heard, if Google files an appeal against CCI orders.

The Google policies have received backlash from Indian software community including Paytm founder VS Sharma and Bharat Matrimony founder Murugavel Janakiraman.

It is not India alone where Google is facing regulatory scrutiny for its developer billing system diktats. In 2021, South Korea enacted the so-called “anti-Google law” in South Korea pushing Google to permit  Android app developers on Google Play the ability to offer alternative payment systems alongside Google’s own.

In September 2022, Google launched a pilot for apps to offer new payment options on Android devices in Australia, Europe, Indonesia and Japan, following pressure from anti-trust regulators across the globe to open up alternative payment systems.