Following an antitrust intervention by the UK’s CMA, Google has offered to give Android app developers in the United Kingdom a choice of using alternative payment options rather than its own billing system.
“Google’s proposed commitments would give app developers the freedom to offer a different billing system of their choosing, known as ‘Developer-only Billing’ (DOB), or offer users a choice between an alternative billing system or Google Play’s billing system, known as ‘User Choice Billing’ (UCB),” the CMA said in an update.
The CMA said in June that the entire monopoly Google has over in-app purchases has unjustly constrained developers by requiring them to adopt Google Play’s billing system, decreasing competition and harming users.
On Wednesday, the CMA opened a consultation on Google’s proposal, inviting Android developers to respond by May 19. “”We need to make sure these commitments will work in practice – so we welcome all feedback, which we will carefully consider before making a final decision,” said Ann Pope, senior director of antitrust at the CMA.
Google said that the commitments were the result of fruitful discussions with the regulator. It said that the implementation of user choice billing in the UK will draw on its knowledge in providing such systems in the European Economic Area and other regions of the world.
“Under the commitments, developers will be able to add an alternative in-app billing system, alongside Google Play’s billing system, for their mobile and tablet users in the U.K. At checkout, users will be able to choose which billing system to use. These options will be presented in a neutral manner allowing users to make an informed and engaged choice. Developers can alternatively choose to not offer Google Play billing at all when their users in the U.K. are paying for digital content and services,” Google said in a blog post.
“For both options, developers are still required to meet appropriate user protection requirements, and service fees and conditions will continue to apply in order to support our investments in Android and Play,” Google said.
Google also said that, when a user selects an alternative billing option, the company will reduce the developer’s service fee by 4%. When developers choose not to offer Google Play billing at all, the service fee the developer pays will be reduced by 3%.
Google first launched the ‘User Choice Billing’ pilot program back in March 2022 with Spotify, after the South Korean parliament passed a bill requiring Google and Apple to offer third-party payment options. In July, it was expanded to the European Economic Area (EEA) and in September to Australia, India, Indonesia and Japan.
“Our proposal is for these commitments to be phased in. They will first be made available to developers of non-gaming apps should the commitments be accepted by the CMA following the public consultation. Following this, the roll out of these commitments to gaming apps will come into effect no later than October 2023,” Google said.