Google and Indian start-ups debate in-app charges

Google and Indian start-ups debate in-app charges

An ongoing dispute between Google and Indian start-ups over charges in its Android and Play Store app ecosystem seems to have escalated in the past few days.

Last Friday Google apparently sent notices of Play Store violations to a number of apps – and then removed from its app store about 100 apps from ten companies in India, including some matrimony apps popular with young people.

The dispute seems to have been triggered by service fee payments – or non-payments. Some Indian start-ups want Google to stop imposing a fee of 11% to 26% on in-app payments, after the country's antitrust authorities ordered it to halt an earlier system of charging 15% to 30%.

Phones using the Android platform are widely used, giving Google a dominant position in the market. However, only 3% of the more than 200,000 Indian developers who use the Google Play platform are required to pay any service fee, Google claims. 

In any case recent court decisions have permitted Google to charge a fee or remove non-paying apps. According to India’s Economic Times news service, Google said in a blog post that ten Indian companies had chosen for an extended period of time not to pay for the "immense value they receive on Google Play".

Then government officials got involved. Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Saturday that Google's decision to remove some apps in India from its app store "cannot be permitted". After this, the Alliance of Digital India Foundation (ADIF), a group representing Indian start-ups, asked the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to order Google to reinstate apps it removed for policy violations.

Government ministers on Monday apparently held multiple meetings with Google and start-ups on this issue without resolving it.

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