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Google extends third-party in-app billing pilot to India, four more markets

All non-gaming developers can offer an additional billing option to their mobile and tablet users on Google Play in India, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, and the European Economic Area.

September 02, 2022 / 12:56 PM IST

Google is extending its third-party in-app billing pilot programme to India and four other markets such as Australia, Indonesia, Japan, and the European Economic Area, the company said on September 2.

The pilot enables participating developers to offer an additional billing system to users along with that of Google Play. This move comes as the tech giant faces increased scrutiny over the business practices of its app marketplace across the world.

Starting today, Google said all non-gaming developers across the world can sign up to participate in the pilot and offer an additional billing option to their mobile and tablet users in these five markets.

Transactions through the alternative billing systems would be subject to a service fee but at a 4 percent rate reduction, the company noted in a support page.

This is quite similar to what Google had announced in South Korea in November 2021, after the country passed a law banning app store operators from forcing developers to use their billing systems for in-app purchases.

Google mentioned that these fees will "support their continued investments in Android and Play"

"Android has always been a uniquely open operating system, and we continue to evolve our platform and increase the choices available to developers and users, while maintaining our ability to invest in the ecosystem" a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Termed as user choice billing, the pilot programme was first introduced in March 2022 with audio streaming service Spotify as its first partner. A company spokesperson said they will be sharing more details "in the coming months as we continue to build and iterate with our pilot partners"

Service fee reduction

Last year, Google had lowered its service fees for all subscription-based services to 15 percent from 30 percent, effective January 1, 2022. Ebooks and on-demand music streaming services, where "content costs account for the majority of sales", will be eligible for a further decrease in its service fee, which "can be as low as 10 percent", it said.

The search engine giant also reduced its commission rate to 15 percent for the first $1 million revenue developers earn using the Play billing system every year in March 2021, which came into effect in July 2021. Google claims that 99 percent of its developers qualify for a service fee of 15 percent or less at present.

ReadGoogle Play spots key monetization opportunity in India as spends on local apps rise 80% in two years

Developer backlash

Over the past couple of years, Google Play has faced an intense backlash from Indian developers after the company said it will start enforcing a mandatory integration of its Play billing system.

This move has attracted a probe from the country's antitrust body Competition Commission of India, which is of the prima facie view that such a policy is unfair as it restricts the ability of app developers to select a payment processing system of their choice.

Google has since then extended the policy deadline only in the Indian market. App developers in the country now have to comply with the Play billing policy by October 31, 2022, while it has already been made mandatory in other markets.

Note: The story has been updated with additional details on Google's Play Store fees in the user choice billing pilot.
Vikas SN
first published: Sep 2, 2022 06:15 am