Earlier this month, Google was sued by dozens of state attorneys general over its Play Store policies. Just over a week later, the company is essentially delaying the enforcement of one of its most significant upcoming changes: a decree that all Play Store apps must use Google’s in-app billing or face a ban. Developers can now request a six-month extension to the deadline.
Back in September 2020, Google announced a crackdown on violations of its in-app billing rules. The Play Store rules have long said that apps must use Google’s billing system for in-app purchases (so that Google gets a cut), but many apps just ignored this rule without repercussions. Last year’s announcement said that this practice would end by September 30, 2021, and all in-app purchases—including subscriptions from the likes of Netflix and Spotify—would need to run through Google.
Late Friday, Google posted an update, saying, “After carefully considering feedback from both large and small developers, we are giving developers an option to request a 6-month extension, which will give them until March 31, 2022 to comply with our Payments policy.” Google doesn’t mention the antitrust lawsuits in its blog post, instead pitching this delay as a solution to an engineering problem. Even with a one-year notice of the deadline, Google claims that the pandemic is making it difficult for developers to switch to Google’s in-app billing system on time:
Many of our partners have been making steady progress toward the September 30 deadline. However, we continue to hear from developers all over the world that the past year has been particularly difficult, especially for those with engineering teams in regions that continue to be hard hit by the effects of the global pandemic, making it tougher than usual for them to make the technical updates related to this policy.
Thirty-six states sued Google earlier this month, saying the company is limiting app store competition. One of the many complaints said that Google’s in-app billing requirement, which gives it a 30 percent cut of all sales, was “unduly restrictive and anti-competitive.” Perhaps Google thinks this delay will make the company look better in regulators’ eyes.
Google says that starting July 22, developers can ask for an in-app billing extension at this link, and the company will “review each request and get back to requests as soon as possible.”