Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s digital payments company Paytm has been able to list its gaming app Paytm First Games back on the Google Play Store nearly three weeks after it was removed along with the Paytm app. Google had reasoned that it doesn’t “allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting,” according to a September 18, 2020 company blog post. Paytm has been able to list back the fantasy gaming app on the Play Store after dropping its cash component involved to play games and making it free. The pro version, on the other hand, which continues to be a cash-based fantasy gaming platform, is only available for download from the company’s website similar to other cash-based apps like Dream11.
“If users type Paytm First Games on Play Store, they won’t find the pro app because we are violating their “policies” which “is designed to provide a safe and secure experience for our consumers”. If the Paytm app promoted Paytm First Games, then Paytm app would also be violating their “policies”. But when YouTube promotes the same Paytm First pro app (for a hefty advertising fee), then it is not a violation of such “policies” and suddenly does not create a risk to the customers,” Paytm First Games said in a blog post on Wednesday.
Following the removal of Paytm last month from Play Store, Google’s Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy wrote that “When an app violates these policies, we notify the developer of the violation and remove the app from Google Play until the developer brings the app into compliance.” Frey added that in the case where there are repeated policy violations, Google may take more serious action which may include terminating Google Play Developer accounts.
The delisting followed notices sent to Zomato and Swiggy for their in-app gamification feature Zomato Premier League and Match Day Mania respectively for violating Google’s Play Store guidelines. The backlash from Paytm and other apps amplified after Google announced enforcing use of its Play Store billing system as mandatory for in-app purchases along with a 30 per cent commission. Leading entrepreneurs of the startup ecosystem have consequently formed an informal coalition to take on the alleged monopolistic moves by Google given that majority smartphones in India run on Android and gives a critical edge to the search giant when it comes app distribution. The coalition had reportedly raised concerns with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology last week.
Meanwhile, in an effort to douse app developers’ concerns, Google on Monday announced an extension to its September 30, 2021 deadline for developers to comply with its existing billing policy till March 31, 2022. Google had twice reiterated that the 30 per cent commission isn’t new. Seemingly, the company is now enforcing it. “Our payments policy is not new — it is our global business model and policy, and we have always required developers who distribute their apps on Play to use Google Play’s billing system if they offer in-app purchases of digital goods. In fact, more than 97 per cent of developers with apps on Google Play already comply with the policy,” said Purnima Kochikar, Director of Business Development, Games & Applications, Google Play in a blog post.
Paytm, continuing to fire back at Google, on Wednesday stressed that fantasy sports are completely legal in India except in few states like Assam, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The company said Google’s “arbitrary interpretation of these policies is a dangerous, and extra-judicial, enforcement of monopolistic powers, against the interest of developers and users.”