Google agrees to reinstate delisted Indian apps on Play Store after govt intervention

Google reinstates delisted Indian apps on Play Store after government intervention
IT and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Google's delisting of Indian Apps
IT and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Google's delisting of Indian Apps

New Delhi | Google has agreed to reinstate all the delisted apps of Indian companies on its Play Store after a government intervention got the two sides talking to resolve a dispute over service fee payments.

Telecom and Information & Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who got Google and the startups to the negotiating table, said the US 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.

Google had on Friday removed from its Play Store apps from a dozen of developers, including popular ones by Matrimony.com 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 a fee of 11-25 per cent 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.

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.

Antitrust body Competition Commission of India 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 the search giant's platform fees.

While removing the apps, Google had on Friday stated that some Indian companies had chosen not to pay for the "immense value they receive on Google Play".

Among the worst hit by the removals is Matrimony.com which has seen more than 140 of its apps being dropped from Play Store. Other apps removed included Balaji Telefilms' Altt (formerly ALTBalaji), audio platform Kuku FM, dating service Quack Quack, and Truly Madly.

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.

Google had briefly removed popular payments app Paytm from its Play Store in 2020 citing some policy violations. That led to a widespread industry cry and startups joining hands to mount legal challenges against the tech giant. They even joined hands to launch their own app store.

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