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Google begins reinstating Indian apps after govt intervention

Last updated on: March 06, 2024 01:45 IST

Google on Tuesday began reinstating about 250 Indian apps it had delisted from its Play Store over a billing dispute as it caved in to government criticism, but the squabble may not yet be over.

Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

The matrimony, dating and other apps were being allowed back on the Play Store but Google will continue to bill the companies a service fee of 11 per cent to 26 per cent on in-app payments during the 3-4 months period the two sides will sit across to resolve the dispute.

Telecom and Information & Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who got Google and the startups to the negotiating table, said the United States tech giant has been supporting India's technology development journey.


"Google and the startup community have met with us, (and) we have had very constructive discussions...Google has agreed to list all the apps," he said.

In a brief statement, Google said, 'In the spirit of cooperation, we are temporarily reinstating the apps of the developers with appeals pending in the Supreme Court.'

'We will invoice our full applicable services fees in the interim and are extending payment timelines for these companies. We look forward to a collaborative effort to find solutions that respect the needs of all parties,' the tech giant said.

App developers said that the battle hasn't yet been won as they still have to find a sustainable long-term solution.

Google on Friday removed from its Play Store apps from a dozen of developers, including popular ones by and job search app Naukri, for non-compliance with its in-app payment guidelines.

As the government took strong exception to the removal, calling it unacceptable, Google beginning Saturday restored some apps that agreed to comply with its guideline to pay the fee on in-app payments or do financial transactions outside of the app.

Vaishnaw and Minister of State for Information and Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar held multiple rounds of discussions with Google and the app owners on Monday in a bid to find a solution to the crisis that was being labelled as a dark day for the internet by some.

On Tuesday, Vaishnaw announced that Google has agreed to restore the status of Friday morning i.e. pre-delisting.

"We believe Google and the startup community will be able to come to a long-term solution in coming months," he said, indicating the two sides will now sit down and thrash out the issue of levy of service charge.

India is the world's largest consumer internet market for tech giants like Meta and Google. And with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government using its geopolitical clout effectively, they can't afford to either ignore the Indian market or ride roughshod over it.

A day after Google delisted the apps, Vaishnaw revealed the government's thinking in an interview to PTI when he said the removal was unacceptable and that the 'startups will get the protection they need'.

The government thereafter called the two sides for a meeting on Monday to resolve the issue.

People Group (, Founder and CEO, Anupam Mittal said that Google was immediately asked to restore the apps as was prior to March 1 and this should happen within 24 hours.

"Further, we have been requested to create a forum with representatives from both sides. A 120-day period has been agreed upon to come to a solution that is non-monopolistic and reflects market realities. We want to ensure developers have freedom of choice in choosing payment gateways and let market forces determine their operating costs," he said.

Mittal said the Google charges are arbitrary, selective and a blatant misuse of dominant power which will crush the local digital economy while Google continues to provide the same services for free to companies like Uber and Amazon.

Bharat Matrimony CEO Murugavel Janakiraman said that charges levied by Google are highly burdensome for digital startups where the payment gateway charges are 1 to 2 per cent.

For the long term, 'we have appealed to the government to develop a legislative framework to safeguard Indian startups and innovators from the unilateral and discriminatory actions of such global giants', Truly Madly's co-founder and CEO Snehil Khanor said.

"The interim settlement is not at all justified but it's an acceptable term for the time being while we figure out a long-term solution," Vinay Singhal, co-founder & CEO of Stage, said.

Antitrust body Competition Commission of India (CCI) had previously ordered Google not to mandatorily enforce an earlier system of charging 15-30 per cent.

Google thereafter imposed a fee of 11-26 per cent on in-app payments.

It removed the apps that weren't paying the fee after the Supreme Court did not provide interim relief to companies behind these apps in their battle against Google.

Indian app firms have approached CCI against the delisting by Google.

Some of the firms said the current developments will not have any impact over the ongoing proceedings at the CCI.

Lal Chand Bisu, co-founder and CEO of Kuku FM, said, "This is a short-term fix. Google will try to get some hack around it again. It's a long battle for us".

At the heart of the problem is Google's in-app fee. While Google says the fees help develop and promote the Android and Play Store ecosystem, startups say the tech giant was forcing them to use its payment system and pay a fee, failing which they were being offloaded by Play Store.

Among the worst hit by the removals is which has seen more than 140 of its apps being dropped from Play Store.

Info Edge saw its job search app Naukri and real estate search app 99acres removed but they were back the next day when it moved to Google's consumption model, where any payment made is done outside of the app.

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