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Google amends Play store policy for cashback promotions in India

Written by Avanish Tiwary Published on     3 mins read

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Last year Google said it would charge a 30% commission on in-app purchases.

Four months after Google temporarily delisted digital payment app Paytm and sent notices to food delivery majors Zomato and Swiggy for running cashback related promotions, the American tech giant has amended its policy regarding loyalty programs and cash prizes.

In a blogpost published Thursday, Google said in the past few months the company spoke with several CEOs of Indian startups and local developers and has updated the policy to reflect on their concerns.

Late last year during the livecast of Indian Premier League, a major cricket tournament that goes on for months, many consumer-facing apps including Zomato, Swiggy, and Paytm came up with in-app games related to the cricket match which allowed users to win real money and discount on their orders. This, Google had then said, violated its policy on games, quizzes, and promotions related to real money and betting.

Google temporarily banned Paytm from the Play Store after the company didn’t remove the cash-back promotion it was then running, and sent notices to Zomato and Swiggy for the same, following which they had to disable their respective promotions.

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Read this: Google Play’s 30% commission awakens Indian entrepreneurs to a long-awaited battle

On Thursday, after its discussions with Indian as well as global app developers, Google said it has amended the policy.

“Based on feedback from developers globally, we have updated our policy guidance on gamified loyalty programs that are based on a qualified monetary transaction in the app and offer prizes of cash or other real-world value,” Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy said.

The update, Frey said, provides more clarity on policy requirements for loyalty program disclosures and features. “It is designed to safeguard users and optimize the developer experience. For example, the policy provides updated guidance on the use of features such as a spin-the-wheel experience, a guessing game, or a 1:1 points redemption to drive loyalty,” she added.

Last year, Google had upset India’s tech startup founders with its notice in late September that said it would charge a 30% commission to all the in-app purchases that made through its Play store.

Soon, Indian founders came together to discuss their options as this affected almost everyone in the ecosystem. Paytm founder, Vijay Shekhar Sharma created a parallel marketplace for app developers to list their apps for users to download.

“Google charging the 30% tax is equivalent to Britisher’s charging the salt tax because apps are becoming absolute necessities, and no one can live their life without apps today. And it’s high time that companies not only in India but world-over come together to fight such kind of dominating and anti-competitive business practices,” Vishal Gondal, founder and CEO of health tech company Goqii, told KrASIA in an earlier interaction.

In January, founders have taken one step ahead in their fight with big tech as they formed an organization called Atmanirbhar Digital Indian Foundation (ADIF). The group said it would work towards building a neutral and self-reliant technology ecosystem that promotes a level playing field for domestic internet companies.

The recent change in Google Play’s policy will allow companies in India to run in-app promotions and loyalty programs starting March 1 this year.

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