Google has been a leader in platform openness, enabling multiple app stores and alternative ways to distribute and access apps on Android devices. Phones powered by Android offer people and businesses more choice than any other mobile platform. It also provides more flexibility for developers to communicate with and support their users compared to other operating systems. Google Play has been the launchpad for millions of apps, helping developers create global businesses that support a quarter of a million jobs in the U.K. alone.
In June 2022, the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it had launched an investigation into payment systems for in-app purchases through Google Play on Android devices. Since then, we have engaged with the CMA in constructive conversations, and today we are announcing a set of potential commitments in relation to our billing policies in the U.K to resolve the CMA’s investigation.
The CMA is now asking others in the industry for feedback on its intention to accept these draft commitments as part of a public consultation running until 19 May 2023. Based on that feedback, it will decide whether to make them legally binding. You can find further details about the CMA’s investigation, and a copy of the consultation document and text of the draft commitments here.
Building on our experience of offering users a choice of billing systems in the EEA and other parts of the world, the commitments would see us roll out user choice billing in the U.K.
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.
The service fees for distributing apps via Android and Google Play will continue to be based on digital sales via our platform. The service fee is how we support our ongoing investments in Android and Google Play, reflects the value provided by Android and Google Play, and is how we earn money as a business. When a user selects alternative billing, we 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%.
Phased roll out
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.
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.
This will ensure a smooth transition for developers and to allow for the necessary changes to be made to our systems.
We appreciate the CMA’s thoughtful approach and the constructive dialogue we’ve had throughout this process. As always, we’ll continue to listen to feedback and continue to invest to help developers thrive on Google Play.
The CMA will consider the feedback from the consultation before deciding whether to make the commitments legally binding.