Google, in compliance with regulations, supports third-party billing in India

by Ana Lopez

Google has begun supporting a third-party billing system for Google Play Store purchases in India as the Android maker begins to comply with local regulatory guidelines in its key overseas market.

Google said in a support page Thursday that it provides “all developers” offering users in India the option to use an alternative billing system and outlines the steps developers must follow to take advantage of the option. The change is in “response to recent regulatory developments” in the South Asian market, the company said.

If a user pays through an alternative billing system, Google Play’s service costs are reduced by 4%, the company said.

Google was fined $161 million by the Competition Commission of India last year and ordered to make a series of strict changes to its business practices in the country. While Google continues to challenge the decision, it said last month it will comply with the order.

Google said it will also give consumers the option to put their favorite search engine on Android and smartphone vendors in the country will license individual apps for pre-installation on their Android devices.

However, some have argued that Google is not fully complying with the order. Epic Games, the video game giant behind the popular title Fortnite, claimed earlier this month that Google did not fully comply with the Indian Supreme Court’s order and chose the main overseas market to escalate its global battle with the Android maker.

In a filing with an Indian court, Epic alleged that despite commitments to make significant changes to Android business practices, Google does not allow downloading of competing app stores through the Google Play Store, nor are consumers in India able to to remove preloaded apps. Google apps from their handsets.

Google warned last month that implementing the changes across the ecosystem “will be a complex process and will require a lot of work on our part and, in many cases, significant effort from partners, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and developers.”

India is an important market for Google, where it has accumulated more than half a billion users. According to research firm Counterpoint, more than 97% of all smartphones in India run on Google’s Android mobile operating system. Google has poured billions into the country over the past decade and is in the process of investing another $10 billion.

“Our commitment to Indian users and the country’s digital transformation is undeterred,” the company said last month. Google had previously warned that complying with legal directions could lead to a proliferation of uncontrolled apps that threaten individual and national security.

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