Google Offers Developers More Payment Freedom on UK Play Store

Google Play

Google wants to give developers promoting apps on its British Play store more billing choices.

According to an announcement Wednesday (April 19) by the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the tech giant has proposed allowing developers to use third-party payment processors for in-app transactions.

That would be a change from the current system in which developers are forced to use Google’s in-house billing system, a practice that made the company the target of a CMA antitrust probe.

“Google’s complete control over in-app payments raised concerns this unfairly restricted app developers — by forcing them to use Google Play’s billing system — putting distance between them and their customers and reducing competition, to the detriment of Google Play users,” Anne Pope, the CMA’s antitrust director, said in the announcement.

Pope added that the CMA was happy that its investigation has led Google to give “in-app payment freedom” to developers, but said the authority still needs to make sure the commitments will work in practice.

To that end, the CMA will wait before rendering a final decision on the change, as it collects feedback from app developers and third-party payment providers. The deadline to comment is 5 p.m. GMT on Friday, May 19.

Google said in a blog entry Wednesday that, assuming the CMA moves forward with the company’s plan, it will roll out the changes to its billing offering in phases.

“They will first be made available to developers of non-gaming apps should the commitments be accepted by the CMA following the public consultation,” the company said. “Following this, the roll out of these commitments to gaming apps will come into effect no later than October 2023.”

The CMA first proposed an antitrust investigation of both Google and Apple in June of 2022, and said in November of last year it was ramping up its efforts after receiving “widespread support” for the move.

“Apple and Google have an effective duopoly on mobile ecosystems that allows them to exercise a stranglehold over these markets, which include operating systems, app stores and web browsers on mobile devices,” the authority said.

However, the CMA investigation into Apple was halted in March after an appeal by the iPhone maker to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) found that the CMA had not complied with the necessary deadlines required.

Google is facing more serious antitrust action in the U.S., where the Justice Department is seeking court permission to break up the company.

“Having inserted itself into all aspects of the digital advertising marketplace, Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful means to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies,” the department said in its lawsuit.

Google responded to the government’s actions by saying the Justice Department was “doubling down on a flawed” argument that would harm small businesses and increase advertising fees.

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