The business models of many app stores have come under fire in the past year or so, escalating with Epic Games’ lawsuit against Apple. At the heart of the matter is how platform owners are using their position to implement mechanisms and policies that force developers to give up as much as 30% of their profits. To be more specific, even small in-app purchases are required to go through Apple’s or Google’s billing systems, which means giving them a cut of the revenue, but Google is now postponing the strict enforcement of that policy until next year.
Google clarified last year that it has always required in-app purchases to go through Google Play’s Billing System. It admits that its wording wasn’t exactly that clear, which is why some developers and app publishers have gotten away with using third-party billing systems. It isn’t changing its original policy but is just making it more explicit and will be enforcing it more strongly.
That clarification came in September last year, and the deadline for following the policy will be September 30 this year. The timing couldn’t have come at a worse time for developers and publishers, considering the rather uncertain economy the world was plunged in. Google claims that the majority of developers have already complied with the policy, but there are still some that haven’t.
Those might be rather influential developers and publishers because they have managed to make Google push the deadline to March 31, 2022. Again, this policy should have been the norm from the start, which means that Google and Apple are really on the same page when it comes to in-app purchases. Any Google Play Store app that offers ways to purchase from within the app should use that official Billing System, which means giving Google a 30% cut in most cases.
Of course, that also gives Google the same legal problems as Apple when it comes to anti-competitive business practices. In fact, the search giant was recently hit with a lawsuit from 36 state attorneys general exactly because of this billing system. It’s not hard to imagine that, rather than just requests from developers, this lawsuit had a hand in the six-month delay of that policy deadline.