Google has been threatening developers who are using alternative in-app payment mechanisms, enforcing the T&Cs which allow it to kick out anyone accepting payments which are not routed through Google.
The news comes from Reuters*, which claims to have emails from Google giving developers 30 days to switch their in-application payments to Google's own payment system, rather than using PayPal or similar. Google takes 30 per cent of such payments, compared to nothing at all for those processed by third parties.
Google Checkout has now merged with its NFC swipe-to-pay service under the umbrella term Google Wallet – and developers are now being forced to process all their in-application payments through Google just as Apple developers are obliged to do within Cupertino's walled garden.
The requirement is in the Android Marketplace Terms and Conditions, and is pretty explicit even if Google hasn't been enforcing it very vigorously:
"All fees received by Developers for Products distributed via the Market must be processed by the Market's Payment Processor."
The lack of enforcement is down to some applications predating Google's support for in-app billing, but from here on in, only applications distributed outside the
Android Marketplace Google Play are allowed to bill any way they like. Anyone using Google to distribute their product will have to cough up 30 per cent of any revenue gained.
For basic applications that's pretty simple, but things get more complicated when one thinks about an application which, for example, triggers a premium-rate SMS to vote someone out of The Big Brother house. In that instance the money isn't being paid for the product, and therefore could fall outside Google's rules, but those rules are far from clear.
It's also going to get much more complicated now that network operators are starting to adopt a standard API for billing events. The WAC recently launched such a scheme which would allow an Android (or iOS) app to trigger billing events using HTTP requests, adding the cost to the user's bill or instantly deducting it from pre-paid credit across nine network operators.
But that's assuming the likes of Google and Apple allow that to happen. ®
* It has been brought to our attention that Google is in the process of extending the Google Wallet brand to encompass
the Marketplace Google Play, which should confuse everyone including Reuters and ourselves.