Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google Changes Billing Policies, Requiring Apps Use In-App Payment Mechanism With Thirty Percent Commission

Daisuke Wakabayashi, New York Times:

Google said in a blog post on Monday that it was providing “clarity” on billing policies because there was confusion among some developers about what types of transactions require use of its app store’s billing system.

Google has had a policy of taking a 30 percent cut of payments made within apps offered by the Google Play store, but some developers including Netflix and Spotify have bypassed the requirement by prompting users for a credit card to pay them directly. Google said companies had until Sept. 30, 2021, to integrate its billing systems.

In a news vacuum, this story is about Google claiming money it has been leaving on the table. Android allows sideloading, so if developers are resistant to comply with this change, they can distribute their apps elsewhere.

But there is important context to this story, as governments around the world investigate tech giants for what they suspect are illegal anticompetitive practices. These antitrust investigations are spurring some peculiar behaviour at major tech companies. Last week, Apple said that it would hold off on collecting commission from ticket purchases to virtual classes. Apple also publicized a partner program for “premium subscription video entertainment services” from which it took only a 15% commission that it said it had been running since 2016. I am unclear as to how that fits Apple executives’ statements that the company treats all apps the same.

If Apple is trying to defend its practices and ease enforcement action against it, it is almost as though Google is encouraging it. There are complaints from developers and regulators in many countries about its Play Store, and it appears that Google has decided its best course of action is to embrace the inferno. As I said: it’s peculiar.