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Union ministers meet Google, app developers to resolve offloading from Play Store

In separate meetings with Minister of State for IT and Electronics Rajeev Chandrashekhar, and Union IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, the troubled startups raised their concerns and sought support from the government

New Delhi: Government ministers on Monday held multiple meetings with Google and startups that have been delisted from the tech giant's Play store, but no solution seems to be on the horizon with Indian companies accusing the US giant of abusing its dominant position. In separate meetings with Minister of State for IT and Electronics Rajeev Chandrashekhar, and Union IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, the troubled startups raised their concerns and sought support from the government. The raging dispute is over Google imposing a fee of 11 per cent to 26 per cent on in-app payments after anti-competition body CCI ordered scrapping of an earlier system of charging 15-30 per cent. Google went ahead to remove apps that were not paying the fee after the Supreme Court did not provide interim relief to companies behind these apps in their battle against the search giant's app marketplace fee.

While Vaishnaw declined to share details on the meeting, he said, "I will share when it is finalised." Chandrasekhar met Indian app developers' body ADIF (Alliance of Digital India Foundation) virtually. He said on social media platform X that the government will continue to work towards a level playing field for big and small firms alike while creating an ecosystem that will catalyze growth for startups under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Today, startups presented their concerns regarding a few policies of @google. Assured them that @GoI_MeitY will take it up with Google for a sustainable and long-term solution," Chandrasekhar tweeted.

The minister said there has been a deep and decisive transformation in India's startup ecosystem over the past 10 years. "From fewer startups in 2014, we now have more than 1 lakh startups and 113 unicorns, with the potential to add 10 lakh startups and 10,000 unicorns in the coming decade," the minister said. ADIF said that its members met both ministers to voice out their concerns and seek support from the government. "The government has assured us support for both immediate resolution and long-term framework. They extended support for our concerns, which were mainly about discriminative pricing, arbitrary revenue share, and Google misusing its dominant position in the market," the industry body said. Sources said that Google representatives met Vaishnaw earlier in the day and presented their version and explained the reason for the action.

Vinay Singhal, CEO of Stage OTT app, which was also delisted by Google app store Play on Friday, said that Google is misusing its dominant position in the market and price gouging to extract unnecessary exorbitant revenue from small start-ups. “Most payment gateways charge 0.5-2 per cent charges, whereas Google charges 15-30 per cent for the same. Google is using its dominant position to price itself at a 30 per cent revenue share, without giving any justifications," he said.

"The service of Google Play Store remains exactly the same for big names like Amazon, Uber and relatively smaller players like Kuku FM, Stage, Kutumb, and Truly Madly, but there is discrimination in charging where they are charging 15-30 per cent from small apps, while they are charging nothing from the big names,” said Snehil Khanor, Co-founder and CEO of Truly Madly, a matchmaking app.

The founders said that they are obligated to use Google's API while implementing any Google model, which gives them access to all of the company's customer data, which is a clear violation of CCI's order. “In the name of real-time billing, they want access to all our data. Moreover, Google has also asked for audit rights, which is an infringement of the DPDP act,” they said. More than 200 apps have been delisted by the app store Play, out of which less than 15 apps have been reinstated.

"The apps that have been reinstated are those who have complied with Google's policies. Most of us had to comply to get reinstated to maintain our visibility. People started considering us as fraud because they are unaware of what is actually happening." The troubled founders said that their revenues dropped by more than 40 per cent in the last 3 days, since they were not acquiring any new customers. They said that Google's action has put a halt on our businesses.

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