In September 2020 Google faced a massive backlash from the Indian startup community after it removed Paytm from Play Store for a day. While Google never gave any explanation for banning Paytm, founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma said Google mistook cash back for gambling. Paytm got suspended for running a UPI cashback campaign as Google thought it was some form of gambling. The irony was while Paytm got banned for providing cashbacks, Google Pay continued with its scratch and win cashback coupons.
Not just Paytm, even Zomato and Swiggy had to remove in-app gamification features after Google slapped notices on both of them. Without any clarity in policies, startups found it tough to offer attractive discounts and offers to customers.
In order to make things easy for app developers in India, Google has simplified its Play Store policies so that they know exactly what is allowed and what’s not.
Sticking to its earlier stand, Google has clarified that it does not allow Real Money Gambling apps on the Play Store in India. Having said that Suzanne Frey, vice president, product, Android Security and Privacy said, “We remain committed to engaging with industry and government bodies as they deliberate on measures that will best support this industry.”
Indian startups are also unhappy with the 30% Google Play commission for in-app purchases. While Google hasn’t said anything about this, the 30% commission rule has already been deferred to April 2022.
Google claims to have discussed with several startup CEOs in India to come up with simplified policies around loyalty programs and features. “App developers in India are actively building uniquely Indian features and services. One example is the use of mini games, quizzes and other gamification techniques to delight users and convert them into loyal customers. These experiences are often launched during important festivals and sporting events, and getting it right within the specific time window is critically important,” said Frey.
What has changed?
In its new policy, Google says, “…loyalty programs that reward users with real world prizes or monetary equivalent” are allowed. However, developers will have to take note that these, “Loyalty program benefits, perks, or rewards must be clearly supplementary and subordinate to any qualifying monetary transaction within the app (where the qualifying monetary transaction must be a genuine separate transaction to provide goods or services independent of the loyalty program) and may not be subject to purchase nor tied to any mode of exchange otherwise in violation of the Real-Money Gambling, Games, and Contests policy restrictions.”
Regarding gaming apps, Google says that “loyalty points or rewards may only be awarded and redeemed on a fixed ratio basis” along with certain specific criterias.
What this means for you and why is it important
With a proper policy in place, app users can expect better offers and new types of games to win cashbacks and discounts for products and services that they buy/order from these apps. Also, proper policy provides a level playground for new apps, thus increasing competition which will ultimately benefit end users.
When will news rules go live?
The new Google Play Store rules will be effective starting March 1, 2021.