Centre's Latest Move After Google Removes Indian Apps From Play Store

The dispute revolves around attempts by Indian startups to resist Google's imposition of a fee ranging from 11 per cent to 26 per cent on in-app payments.

Google on Friday removed apps from 10 Indian companies.

New Delhi:

IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has invited representatives from Google for a meeting on Monday over a dispute between the tech giant and some Indian companies over non-compliance with billing policies. 

Google on Friday removed apps from 10 Indian companies, citing disputes over service fee payments. Among the affected apps were matrimony services such as Bharat Matrimony and job search app Naukri, intensifying the long-standing grievances of Indian startups against Google's practices, including in-app fee charges.

Mr Vaishnaw, expressing optimism about a swift resolution, stated, "I am hopeful that Google will be reasonable in its approach. We have a large, growing startup ecosystem, and it's crucial to protect their interests." 

"I have already asked Google to meet me. We will take all necessary steps to safeguard our startup ecosystem, and I trust that Google, which has adapted well to digital payments, will approach this matter reasonably," the IT Minister added. 

Dispute Explained 

The dispute revolves around attempts by Indian startups to resist Google's imposition of a fee ranging from 11 per cent to 26 per cent on in-app payments, following an order from antitrust authorities to dismantle the previous fee structure of 15 per cent to 30 per cent. Google says that its fees contribute to the development and promotion of the Android and Play Store app ecosystem. Although two court decisions in January and February seemingly allowed Google to proceed with the new fee or remove apps, Indian companies continue to contest this imposition.

Matrimony.com, the founder of Bharat Matrimony, Christian Matrimony, Muslim Matrimony, and Jodii, expressed dismay as its matchmaking apps were taken down from Google's Play Store. Founder Murugavel Janakiraman referred to it as a dark day for India's internet, emphasizing the potential widespread impact on matrimony services. 

"Our apps are getting deleted one by one. It literally means all the top matrimony services will be deleted," Mr Janakiraman said as quoted by news agency Reuters. 

The impact is significant as matrimonial apps and websites have gained popularity in India, particularly among younger generations opting for non-traditional matchmaking. Bharat Matrimony alone boasted more than 50 million downloads and a customer base exceeding 40 million.

Google's actions weren't limited to matrimony apps. Info Edge, the parent company of job search app Naukri and real estate search platform 99acres, faced removal from the Play Store as well. Despite initial share price fluctuations, both Matrimony.com and Info Edge managed to recover partially by the end of the day.

Google's Response

Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., defended its actions, claiming that 10 Indian companies had opted not to pay for the "immense value they receive on Google Play" for an extended period. 

"After giving these developers more than three years to prepare, including three weeks after the Supreme Court's order, we are taking necessary steps to ensure our policies are applied consistently across the ecosystem, as we do for any form of policy violation globally," Google said in a statement

The tech giant, which holds a dominating 94 per cent share in the Indian market through its Android platform, argued that allowing selective developers to evade fees creates an uneven playing field. Google maintained that no court or regulator had disputed its right to charge fees on its Play platform.