With Epic leading the charge against Apple and Google’s app store billing practices it seems that Google has chosen this moment to start enforcing its rules around the use of Google Play billing for In App Purchases (IAP). Google has updated its Google Play payments policy informing developers they have until September 30, 2021 to integrate Google Play Billing for IAP or face removal from the Play Store.

Unlike the App Store, Google Play has not enforced developer using Google as their payment providers for IAP outside of games. That means that services like Spotify have been able to utilise Google Play for distribution but not actually pay any revenue to Google for the use of the store. Now, app store commissions are a hotly contested subject, those who run app stores say the fees cover their costs for providing the platform, those who make apps say it’s rent seeking.

It’s hard to argue that developers should be provided access to a free development platform, development tools, Content Delivery Network, market place and over a billion user devices for free. Many would also argue it’s a bit much for these platforms to take 30% of the revenue that app developers make for a system operating at this scale.

Google is quick to point out that only 3% of its current developers are running afoul of the new rules and that this represents a small portion of their developer community. However, this doesn’t acknowledge that there are likely a very large proportion of their developers are publishing apps that do not use IAP and as such aren’t affected by this in any way, this includes free, paid upfront and ad-supported apps.

With the legal battle currently underway between Google and Epic in the USA this is a story that’s unlikely to go away. Here’s the question, what is the value of a mobile app marketplace? When a company develops a platform, releases free developer tools, provides app and security reviews (to varying degrees), curates a user base and offers a market place does that company not have the right to monetise its own investment? Myer, Big W or Amazon doesn’t sell other peoples products for free? Why should Google and Apple.

What do you think the correct surcharge is for these companies? Should they look at a sliding scale where those who make less pay less, while those profiting off the platform pay more?

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Ben
Ben
19 days ago

Google/Apple should ask money for each download of the app, because that’s the service and value they bring and offer, but should not be allowed to ask money for the services offered by the other company later. And they should allow that software can be downloaded from other sources, without any problem. And saying that without their reach, apps would not be downloaded as much, is also bullshit… If they would have to develop each app themself, they would not be able to offer so much cool services… So it’s equal in offered services, but not equal on how they… Read more »

DEjaAU
DEjaAU
19 days ago

Not quite right what you are saying Duncan. The dev tools etc are not free, since Google and Apple charge the 30%. Since plenty of Devs are monetizing their apps, this flows back to Google and Apple.
Secondly, the retailer example also does not work, since retailers do not get any money beyond the original sale, ie they do not get involved in the payment of phone calls, in game purchases of video games, subscription that come out of paper based magazines etc. Once it is sold the retailer is out of the loop.

PeterA
PeterA
20 days ago

The problem isn’t the fee.

The problem is you can’t market the price being cheaper elsewhere.

While Myer bigw and Amazon are free to sell products at any price they choose, but as a product vendor I am free to put a big label on my products that says: Recommended Retail Price $10. If the shop chooses to sell it for $12 dollars, that isn’t my problem that they sell it for more than I advertise it.

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith
20 days ago

It doesn’t feel right to expect developers to pay for the SDKs that Google/Apple build. The companies make those SDKs to attract the developers to the platform to build applications for them which in turn attracts users which sells phones. Pretty much all APIs for platforms have been free in the past for e.g. Windows. The marketplace… really? They are fairly basic apps to build. Yes, it needs moderation tools and the billing side of things, but these have existed for a long time already, so it’s nothing new. Or, ya know, just let people download apps from the developers… Read more »

JeniSkunk
JeniSkunk
20 days ago

The app devs argue the toss, but how many app devs have IAP content that’s priced above $20AUD?

Darren
Darren
20 days ago

This is just payment made within the app correct? Users are still free to pay subscription fees to say Netflix or Spotify via other means?