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Center’s Immediate Response: Measures Taken Post Google App Ban

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IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has invited Google representatives to a meeting on Monday to discuss a dispute involving non-compliance with billing policies between the tech giant and some Indian companies.
Google removed the apps of ten Indian companies on Friday because of disputes over the payment of service fees. The affected apps included the job search app Naukri and matrimony services like Bharat Matrimony. This intensified Indian startups’ long-standing grievances against Google’s policies, which included in-app fee charges.

Mr. Vaishnaw expressed hope for a speedy resolution and said, “I hope Google will take a reasonable approach. We need to safeguard the interests of our vast and expanding startup community.”

“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 

In response to an order from antitrust authorities to dismantle the previous fee structure of 15 to 30 percent, the dispute centers on attempts by Indian startups to oppose Google’s imposition of a fee ranging from 11 to 26 percent on in-app payments. According to Google, the Play Store and Android app ecosystems are developed and promoted in part by the money it charges. Despite two court rulings in January and February that appear to have given Google the go-ahead to impose the new fee or remove apps, Indian companies are still fighting this imposition.

The creator of Bharat Matrimony, Christian Matrimony, Muslim Matrimony, and Jodii, Matrimony.com, expressed shock at the matchmaking apps’ removal from the Google Play Store. Murugavel Janakiraman, the founder, described it as a “dark day” for India’s internet, highlighting the possible broad effects on matchmaking services.

“One by one, our apps are being removed. It literally means that all of the best matrimonial services will be eliminated,” Mr. Janakiraman stated, according to Reuters.

The impact is substantial because younger generations in India are choosing non-traditional matchmaking, and matrimonial apps and websites have become more and more popular. Just Bharat Matrimony claimed to have over 40 million customers and over 50 million downloads.

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.

With its Android platform, the tech giant, which commands a commanding 94% share of the Indian market, claimed that letting certain developers avoid paying fees unfairly distorts the market. No court or regulator, according to Google, had contested its authority to impose fees on its Play platform.

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