Following CCI Order, Google Extends User Choice Billing To All Indian Devs

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The move comes after it said it would make changes to its Play Store policies following CCI’s directives

The tech giant introduced a pilot project for the user choice billing system in September 2022

Indian developers can follow a six-step process to integrate user choice billing into their apps and games

Tech major Google has extended user choice billing to all developers in India, following the penalties and directives issued by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

“In response to recent regulatory developments in India, we are now offering all developers the ability to offer an alternative billing system alongside Google Play’s for their mobile and tablet users in India,” said Google in a blog on Thursday (February 23).

The tech major further said that if a user pays through an alternative billing system, the Google Play service fee will be reduced by 4%. “If you don’t want to offer an alternative billing system, you do not need to take any action,” Google added.

Google’s move comes a month after it announced the changes it would be making to its Play Store policies following the competition watchdog’s action. One of the four key actions also involved introducing user choice billing for Indian developers by February 2023, and Google has followed through with its commitment.

The Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), a think tank representing India’s tech startups, slammed Google’s move, calling it a “blatant attempt to evade obligation”.

“While Google claims that these changes are ostensibly in response to the regulatory development, the said change is in gross violation of the remedies mentioned in the CCI order,” an ADIF spokesperson told Inc42.

The industry think tank also said Google’s decision was a violation of a specific direction in the CCI order that directed Google to not impose any condition (including price-related conditions) on app developers.

“This exorbitant commission stifles innovation and business growth in Indian startups, as a major component of the revenue for subscription-based services and in-app purchases is taken by Google, without providing any additional service,” said ADIF.

Google had introduced a pilot project for the user choice billing system in September 2022, a month before CCI slapped two penalties worth a total of INR 2,274 Cr for alleged abuse of its dominant position in the Android ecosystem.

Indian developers can follow the six-step process introduced by Google to integrate user choice billing into their apps and games, including informing the tech major by filling out a declaration form, following trust and safety requirements by certifying PCI DSS compliance and following its interim user experience requirements.

A developer also needs to manually report to Google Play the amount of all paid transactions from users in India every month until it brings APIs to automate the said process.

Lastly, Indian developers would need to pay an adjusted Google Play service fee for transactions that use an alternative billing system outside of Google Play’s billing system. To incentivise the uptake of the user choice billing system, the tech major has further reduced the fees by 4%.

While Google has decided to comply with some of the directives mentioned in the CCI order, the matter is being heard by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) over certain aspects of the penalties and directives.

The tech giant has not received any relief from either NCLAT or the Supreme Court, both of which directed it to immediately pay 10% of the penalties imposed by CCI.

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