Tensions are high between Indian app developers and the Google Play Store after a recent delisting incident. The issue? Commissions and a perceived lack of control for Indian businesses on Google’s platform. The conflict ignited when Google delisted apps from popular Indian companies like and, citing non-compliance with Play Store policies. This move sent shockwaves through the Indian startup ecosystem, with the government stepping in to mediate. Google eventually reinstated some apps, but the underlying issues remain unresolved. Developers criticize Google’s lack of transparency and unwillingness to negotiate in good faith. The sentiment is that Google prioritizes its revenue over fostering a healthy app ecosystem in India. Let’s understand the issue in more detail.

What is Google’s Billing System?

Google Play Store is an official digital distribution service operated and developed by Google. It serves as the primary app store for devices running on the Android operating system, including smartphones, tablets, Android TV, and Chrome OS devices. The Play Store allows users to browse and download applications developed with the Android software development kit (SDK) and published through Google. Google’s billing system rules within the Play Store pertain to how developers can monetize their apps and content, as well as how Google manages financial transactions related to purchases made within apps.

Google requires developers to use Google Play’s billing system for in-app purchases of digital goods or services within their apps. This means that if an app offers items for purchase within the app itself (such as premium features, virtual goods, subscriptions, etc.), those purchases must be processed through Google Play’s billing system, which involves Google taking a percentage of the transaction as a commission. Google typically takes a 30% commission on purchases made through its billing system. This means that for every transaction processed through Google Play’s billing system, Google retains 30% of the revenue, and the remaining 70% goes to the developer. There are some exceptions to Google’s billing system rules. For example, purchases of physical goods or services that are consumed outside of the app (e.g. ride-sharing services, food delivery, etc.) are not required to use Google Play’s billing system. Additionally, certain types of digital content, such as music, movies, and books, may have alternative payment options outside of Google Play’s billing system.

For subscription-based apps, Google’s billing system rules also apply. Developers offering subscription services within their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system for processing subscription payments, and Google takes a 30% commission on these transactions as well. Google enforces its billing system rules through its policies and guidelines for developers. Apps found to violate these rules may be subject to various actions, including removal from the Play Store or suspension of developer accounts. Overall, Google’s billing system rules are designed to ensure a consistent and secure payment experience for users while also providing a revenue stream for developers and for Google itself as the operator of the Play Store platform.

What are the allegations against Google’s billing system?

Google’s billing system within the Google Play Store has faced several allegations and criticisms over the years. One of the primary allegations against Google’s billing system is that it stifles competition by mandating the use of Google Play’s billing system for in-app purchases. Critics argue that Google’s requirement for developers to use its billing system and pay a 30% commission creates an unfair advantage for Google’s own apps and services and limits choice for consumers and developers alike. The 30% commission fee charged by Google for transactions processed through its billing system has been a subject of criticism. Developers argue that this commission is excessive and cuts significantly into their revenue, especially for subscription-based services where the commission applies to recurring payments. Some developers have criticized Google for a lack of transparency in its billing system, particularly regarding how funds are distributed and how decisions are made regarding app suspensions or removals for policy violations. They argue that more transparency is needed to ensure fairness and accountability.

Critics have raised concerns about the limited payment options available to users within the Google Play Store. By requiring developers to use Google’s billing system, Google effectively limits alternative payment methods, which could offer users more choices and potentially lower costs. Google’s billing system has attracted regulatory scrutiny in various countries. For example, the European Union has launched antitrust investigations into Google’s practices, including its billing system, to assess whether they violate competition laws. Similar investigations and legal challenges have been initiated in other regions as well. Many developers have expressed dissatisfaction with Google’s billing system rules and policies, leading to public protests, petitions, and advocacy efforts calling for changes to the system. These allegations and criticisms have led to ongoing debates and discussions about the fairness, competitiveness, and transparency of Google’s billing system within the Google Play Store ecosystem.

What action has CCI taken against Google?

In October 2022, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) delivered a significant blow to Google, imposing a hefty fine of INR 1,337 crore (approximately USD 163 million) for abusing its dominant position in the Android mobile device ecosystem. Alongside the penalty, the CCI mandated eight behavioural changes to Google’s Play Store policies. Notable among these directives was the requirement for Google to allow app developers to utilize alternative billing systems within their apps, breaking away from the tech giant’s previous monopoly on in-app purchases. Additionally, the CCI ordered Google to refrain from mandating the pre-installation of its apps on Android devices and to provide greater transparency to developers regarding app suspensions and removals. Despite Google’s decision to challenge the CCI’s ruling in the Supreme Court of India, the company has complied with the financial penalty by depositing the imposed amount. However, the implementation of the mandated changes to Play Store policies remains contentious. While Google introduced user choice billing as an alternative payment option, Indian developers have expressed dissatisfaction due to additional fees associated with the new system. This development marks a significant step in regulating app store practices in India, yet the ongoing dispute underscores the ongoing struggle for a fairer app ecosystem.

Can an alternative to Google Playstore survive?

The dominance of Google Play Store in the app distribution space is facing a challenge from emerging alternatives, particularly in the Indian market. This reflects a growing desire for competition and independence. While Google Play Store holds a significant lead, there are opportunities for new platforms to succeed if they address certain key factors. One crucial factor is pre-installed integration on smartphones. This can significantly boost user adoption by making the app store readily available on new devices. Partnering with major phone manufacturers like Oppo, Samsung, and Xiaomi would ensure wider reach for these alternative stores. Strategic alliances with industry players can also be a game-changer. As seen with Indus Appstore’s collaborations with PhonePe and Dream11, such partnerships bring credibility and attract both users and app developers to the platform. To compete effectively, alternative app stores need to offer unique value propositions. This could involve better revenue-sharing models for developers, improved discoverability for apps, and curated content that caters to local user preferences. Regulatory considerations come into play as well. While direct government intervention might not be the most practical solution, leveraging existing frameworks like the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) can be beneficial. This approach aligns with the focus on digital public infrastructure and has the potential to foster innovation in the app distribution landscape. Another key factor is developer support. Attracting a diverse range of developers is essential, and this can be achieved by offering a simplified onboarding process, transparent policies, and adequate tools and resources to publish and monetize their apps. Finally, a seamless and user-friendly experience is paramount. This includes making app discovery easy, ensuring a smooth installation process, implementing robust security measures, and providing efficient customer support.


The future remains uncertain. While the government’s intervention has provided some relief, the fight between Indian apps and the Google Play Store is far from over. The success of alternative app stores and the possibility of an open app distribution network are developments to watch closely. One thing is clear – India’s vibrant app industry is demanding a fairer and more transparent app store ecosystem. Although competing with the established Google Play Store is a formidable challenge, there is space for innovative alternatives to thrive, especially in a market like India where there’s a growing demand for localized solutions and more autonomy in the digital ecosystem. By addressing the factors mentioned above, these alternative app stores have the potential to disrupt the status quo and offer a more competitive and user-centric app distribution landscape.


  1. Economic Times – Why are Indian startups up in arms against Google Billing?
  2. Live Mint – Google vs Indian startups row: its global implications
  3. Hindustan Times – Google vs Indian startups: Apps take next big step against Alphabet Inc