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Google to Test Third-Party Billing in Its Android App Store Google to Test Third-Party Billing in Its Android App Store
Google eases third-party app payments on the Play Store. Xiomara Blanco/CNET Google said Wednesday it will allow some developers to offer third-party payment options... Google to Test Third-Party Billing in Its Android App Store


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Google eases third-party app payments on the Play Store.


Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Google said Wednesday it will allow some developers to offer third-party payment options in apps that run on its Android operating system, a move the search giant has resisted for years. 

In a blog post to developers, Google said it had rolled out a pilot program in South Korea that allows Android users to select payment systems other than Google’s. Because of security concerns, Google said it’s starting with Spotify and other trusted partners.

Spotify will introduce the billing system used by Google Play, the Android app store, alongside its own billing system. 

“This is a significant milestone and the first on any major app store — whether on mobile, desktop or game consoles,” Sameer Samat, vice president of product management, said in the blog post. The option to use third-party payment will be rolled out more broadly in the future.

The move comes after years of resistance to third-party payment on Google Play and represents a major change in the way platform owners manage their software marketplaces. Google, along with Apple, controlled payment systems in order to ensure a cut, usually between 15% and 30%, depending on a few factors. The standard practice of forcing all mobile transactions through Google’s or Apple’s payment systems reduces income for developers. App stores like Google Play have been the subject of alleged monopolistic practices by lawmakers and regulators, both in the US and abroad.

In one major case, Google fought Epic Games, the maker of the hit battle royale game Fortnite, over payments outside the Play Store. As soon as Epic Games started allowing players to buy in-game purchases outside the Play Store, Google kicked the popular title off its marketplace. As of publishing, Fortnite is still unavailable on the Play Store, but can be downloaded and installed externally, similar to how a program is installed on a computer.

In October of last year, Google filed a counterclaim stating that Epic Games owed Google relief for allowing users to download Fortnite through the Play Store but use Epic’s payment system instead. Google and Epic Games have agreed to a trial in early 2023

Google’s shift on payment policies follows last year’s verdict in a trial between Epic and Apple. The ruling required Apple to allow app developers to inform consumers that they can go outside of the App Store to make payments for items or subscriptions bought within apps. However, developers can’t provide a button linking customers to an alternate payment system. 

Google’s program with Spotify will give some Android users more control over how they pay for the music-streaming service. While the exact terms of the deal are unknown, it could allow Spotify to promote certain deals or pass on savings to customers now that Google is offering alternative payment methods. 

Spotify has frequently criticized Apple as abusing the might of its App Store, including billing-system restrictions. Spotify has said that Apple has retaliated when it tried to circumvent Apple’s payment system by rejecting its mobile-app updates. 

Apple has rejected charges that its App Store is anticompetitive, though the EU has found the company’s in-app payment practices violate competition law. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Google does allow some alternative payment platforms to be used with Android. The Samsung Galaxy Store and the Amazon Appstore are two prominent examples in the US. The Huawei App Market Store and Tencent My App Store are examples in China.



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