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    Google to provide billing choice for UK Play Store following antitrust probe

    Following an antitrust intervention by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Google has proposed allowing developers who offer apps via its UK Play mobile app store to use alternative payment processors for in-app transactions, instead of being restricted to Google’s proprietary billing system (GPB). This move comes after the CMA’s investigation into Google’s control over in-app payments on Android devices, which was launched in June 2022.

    In a statement, Google said that the development is a result of “constructive conversations” with the CMA and that the proposed commitments aim to resolve the regulator’s concerns regarding the company’s billing policies in the UK. The new system would enable users to choose between Google Play’s billing system and an alternative in-app billing system provided by the developer at the time of checkout. According to Google, these options will be presented in a “neutral manner,” allowing users to make an informed choice.

    Ann Pope, senior director of antitrust at the CMA, emphasized the need to ensure that the commitments work in practice, saying, “We need to make sure these commitments will work in practice – so we welcome all feedback, which we will carefully consider before making a final decision.” The CMA has invited comments on Google’s proposals by May 19.

    Google’s legal director, Oliver Bethell, explained the details of the proposal in a blog post: “Under the commitments, developers will be able to add an alternative in-app billing system, alongside Google Play’s billing system, for their mobile and tablet users in the UK. At checkout, users will be able to choose which billing system to use.”

    Furthermore, developers can choose not to offer Google Play billing at all for their users in the UK when they pay for digital content and services. Despite these changes, the service fees for distributing apps via Android and Google Play will continue to be based on digital sales through the company’s platform.

    The phased rollout of the proposal will first be made available to non-gaming app developers if the commitments are accepted by the CMA after the public consultation. Gaming apps will follow, with the rollout expected no later than October 2023.

    Google’s proposal to allow alternative payment systems for in-app purchases comes after the CMA’s year-long study of the mobile ecosystem, which identified significant concerns with the market power of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS duopoly. If the proposal is accepted, it could potentially pave the way for increased competition and more options for developers and users in the UK’s mobile app market.

    Author

    author avatar
    Anubha Pandey

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