Google vs Paytm: A case of breaking the rules or a battle for the market?

Experts also say Paytm promoting Paytm First Games through its main payments app amounts to surrogate advertising and violation of Playstore rules
Even as the Paytm app was reinstated a few hours after its delisting from the Google Play Store, the mudslinging between the two companies continued over the weekend.

The spat brings Google and Apple’s duopoly over being the only marketplaces for applications on their mobile operating systems into question. But Google stood its ground in this case, saying Paytm’s promotion of its fantasy gaming app Paytm First Games was a clear breach of its policies.

Technology and industry experts though appear to be divided after the first bout.

“In this matter, the policies of Google are a bit arbitrary. One, it does not allow any gaming apps where there is an entry fee or money involved, even though they are legal, according to the laws of India,” said Jay Sayta, a legal expert on gaming laws and policies, adding, “Over 95 per cent of Indian phones are Android. This reflects Google’s monopoly over app distribution. This brings antitrust issues which the tech giant may have to face. Its policies lead to denial of market access to many Indian app developers and may be seen as violation of the Competition Act, 2002.”

Sayta is also the founder of GLaws India, India’s first website dedicated to the Indian gambling and gaming industry. It got acquired last year.

On Sunday, the Noida-headquartered company said it had launched a Unified Payments Interface-cashback campaign for its users on September 11. However, the company’s payments app was delisted on September 18 from the Play Store for policy violations, without giving it the opportunity to defend itself.

Google shot back, saying the delisting was not only due to scratch cards and vouchers. It said its policies don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting, including daily fantasy sports in India.

“We enforce our policies very thoughtfully to provide a safe and secure experience for consumers, while also giving developers the platform and tools they need to build sustainable businesses.

In the case of repeated policy violations, we may take more serious action, which may include terminating Google Play developer accounts,” a Google India spokesperson said in a statement.

Paytm suggested the global tech giant’s move was hypocritical as Google, too, regularly runs similar scratch-card campaigns in India under its Google Pay app. Such moves will be familiar to all Indian internet companies since they face similar “arm-twisting and fear of Google’s dominance over India’s digital ecosystem every day”, Paytm added.

Experts also say Paytm promoting Paytm First Games through its main payments app amounts to surrogate advertising and violation of Play Store rules. “It also looks like an issue of breach of rules related to surrogate advertising by Paytm. Effectively, you may disagree with the policies of the Google Play Store, but by signing up, Paytm has agreed to abide by them. So Google is well within its rights to pull down the apps, especially after repeated warnings,” said Nikhil Pahwa, a digital rights activist and founder of website MediaNama.

However, Paytm responded to this charge, saying it had received communication from Google’s support team sharing its concernson August 20, August 28, and September 1.

“While we strenuously disagreed with the allegation that we are breaching the policy, we immediately complied with the diktat that barred us from promoting our gaming subsidiary,” it said.

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