Google tests alternative payment methods in Play store

Pilot scheme running in Europe, APAC, sees ad giant still take its cut

Google has started a test of alternative payment systems in its Play store.

The move comes in response to growing pressure on app store operators to give developers options, as Epic Games sought in its dispute with Apple and the government of South Korea required with legislation. The EU’s Digital Markets Act also seeks to limit Big Tech’s gatekeeping powers and was designed to stop Google prioritizing its own goods and services over those of competitors.

The test, foreshadowed in March 2022 when Spotify’s Android app offered its own payment system alongside Google’s, will see the search giant offer developers the chance to offer users the chance to employ payment systems other than its own.

The trial covers digital content and services, such as in-app purchases and subscriptions. Web-based payments as an alternative payment method in an embedded webview within their app are also possible under the pilot.

The program is detailed in a support document that states it will run in European Economic Area (EEA) countries - not the UK - plus Australia, India, Indonesia, and Japan.

Regulators in India and Australia have recently probed Google’s market dominance. Make of that what you will.

The test will require alternative payment systems to be compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and developers must provide customer service for their chosen system. Payment systems used must provide a process to dispute unauthorized transactions.

Games are not eligible for the test, and Google’s not explained why other than to say they’re not eligible but that decision might change.

Google will still take a fee for transactions conducted with alternate payment systems, albeit a little lower. "When a consumer uses an alternative billing system, the service fee the developer pays will be reduced by 3 percent," the internet titan stated.

"Google Play’s service fee has never been simply a fee for payment processing," the web giant added. "It reflects the value provided by Android and Play and supports our continued investments across Android and Google Play, allowing for the user and developer features that people count on."

Google’s not said how long it will run the pilot, but its FAQs suggest this will be a phased effort that expands to add games and possibly other content types in future.

If you fancy trying the scheme, apply here - but don’t bother unless you already have a Play Store developer account, as that’s required to apply for inclusion. ®

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