Google trials new payment options for Android users after pressure from regulators across world

Pilot to let some app developers offer options outside Google’s Play payment system in Australia, Europe, India, Indonesia and Japan

Google has quietly launched a pilot for apps to offer new payment options on Android devices in Australia, Europe, India, Indonesia and Japan, following pressure from regulators across the globe to open up alternative payment systems.

On Friday, Google opened enrolment to developers of non-gaming apps to allow them to trial user-choice payment options for users in the five locations, with caveats, including that Google will reduce its service fee by 4% for transactions.

That brings down the 15-30% fee many developers pay through the Play payment system now. Google said on Friday that 99% of developers currently pay 15% or less.

Other requirements include that the billing system must only be offered within the app, comply with the payment card industry data security standard and provide customer support, dispute resolution and a means to dispute unauthorised transactions.

Apps that offer alternative payment options will be able to bring it in on the first of the month following the change.

“Android has always been a uniquely open operating system and we continue to evolve our platform and increase the choices available to developers and users while maintaining our ability to invest in the ecosystem,” a Google spokesperson said. “We will be sharing more in the coming months as we continue to build and iterate with our pilot partners.”

The move has come following pressure in Australia and Europe in particular over in-app payment systems and major lawsuits in Australia, Europe and the US brought against Apple and Google by Fortnite creator Epic Games – which was banned from Apple and Google app stores for offering an alternative payment option.

Apple does not offer alternative in-app payment options but did loosen its policy on alternative payment options last year by allowing developers to email users about ways of paying outside the app.

In April last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission argued the two companies’ take was too high and developers should be allowed to advertise alternative payment options within their apps on Google and Apple platforms.

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A spokesperson for the ACCC welcomed the trial.

“The ACCC supports any voluntary measures by digital platforms like Google that improve the flexibility in the way app developers can provide services to Australian consumers,” the spokesperson said.

The ACCC’s next interim report as part of the long-running inquiry into the digital platforms is due to be handed to government at the end of September.

The European commissioner for competition last year accused Apple of breaking EU law over its fees for in-app transactions.

The service is already available in South Korea following rules requiring Apple and Google to offer payment alternatives within their apps, which was passed into law last year.


Josh Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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