Google is delaying in-app billing crackdown after a wave of US antitrust lawsuits

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Earlier this month, Google was sued by dozens of attorneys general over its Play Store policies. Just over a week later, the company is essentially delaying enforcement of one of its key upcoming changes: a decree that all Play Store apps must use Google’s in-app billing or face a ban. Developers can now request a six month extension to the deadline.

As early as September 2020, Google announced action against violations of its in-app billing rules. The Play Store rules have long said that apps must use Google’s billing system for in-app purchases (so that Google gets a cut), but many apps simply ignored this rule with no effect. Last year’s announcement said this practice would end by September 30, 2021 and all in-app purchases – including subscriptions to Netflix and Spotify – would have to go through Google.

Late on Friday, Google released an update stating, “After carefully reviewing feedback from developers large and small, we’re giving developers the opportunity to apply for a six-month extension until March 31, 2022 adhere to our payments policy. ” Google does not mention the antitrust lawsuits in its blog post, but presents this delay as a solution to a technical problem. Even with a one-year deadline, Google claims that the pandemic makes it difficult for developers to switch to Google’s in-app billing system in good time:

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Many of our partners have made steady progress towards the September 30th deadline. However, we continue to hear from developers around the world that the past year has been particularly difficult, especially for those with engineering teams in regions that continue to be badly hit by the impact of the global pandemic, making it more difficult than usual for them to deal with the technical Make updates related to this Policy.

36 states sued Google earlier this month, saying the company was restricting competition in the app store. One of the many complaints was that Google’s in-app billing requirement, which meant cutting all sales by 30 percent, was “unreasonably restrictive and anti-competitive”. Perhaps Google thinks that delay makes the company look better in the eyes of regulators.

Google says developers can use this link to request an in-app billing extension starting July 22nd. The company will “review every request and respond to requests as soon as possible”.

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