Paytm locks horns with Google over 'arm-twisting and arbitrary policies' after app suspension
Fintech giant Paytm on Sunday struck back at Google's suspension of its app on the Play Store saying it was not in violation of the global tech giant's policies, and pointed to the fact that Google Pay had similar cashback offers.
The blog post, which outlined the events that led to the ban, said in effect that the incident was not unheard of before, and that other Indian internet companies face similar "arm-twisting and fear of Google’s dominance over India’s digital ecosystem every day."
The ban stemmed from Paytm's 'Cricket League' campaign, launched on September 11, where it allowed users to collect cricket stickers and scratch cards to earn cashbacks via UPI whenever they made transactions on the apps, including recharges, utility payments, UPI money transfers, and adding money to Paytm wallet.
After a week, Paytm received an email from Google Play Support stating the company's app had been delisted because it contained "content that doesn’t comply with the Gambling policy as it offers games with “loyalty” (e.g. engagement or activity) points that (1) are accrued or accelerated via real-money purchases which (2) can be exchanged for items or prizes of real-world monetary value.”
Paytm said it was not given any opportunity to respond to the company's email. It also pointed to a similar campaign carried out by Google Pay, especially its 'Tez Shots' campaign at the start of the cricket season, which allowed users to score runs and earn assured rewards up to Rs 1 lakh.
"Presumably, such cashback campaigns of Google Pay are not in breach of Play Store policies, or maybe they are, but a different set of rules apply to Google’s own apps," the Vijay Shekhar Sharma-led startup said.
In response to Paytm's note, Google said that offering cashbacks and vouchers alone don't constitute a violation of Play Store's gambling policies.
"Last week we reiterated our Play Store gambling policies. Our 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. Our policies are applied and enforced on all developers consistently," a Google spokesperson said.
Paytm added the ban has led it to question Google's policies in India, which are over and above Indian laws, and their arbitrary implementation — something startups and developers in India should also think about.
"As a startup, we are running law-abiding businesses and building for India. Google and its employees are making policies which are over and above the laws of our country, and are arbitrarily implementing them," Paytm's post said.
Previous "policy violation" communication from Google
Paytm says Google had in August raised concerns about the startup's promotion of Paytm First Games, and had written to it on three occasions to rectify and comply with Play Store's policies.
According to Paytm, Google barred the startup from promoting its games feature on the main Paytm app, but allowed paid promotions on YouTube, which is owned by Google.
"While we strenuously disagreed with the allegation that we are breaching the policy (and we disagree with the policy itself too), we immediately complied with the diktat that barred us from promoting our gaming subsidiary," Paytm said.
"We have been prompt and responsible in solving Google’s concerns and comply with their directions. Google’s recent action on delisting Paytm app because of a cashback campaign is unjustified. We reiterate that our cashback campaign was within guidelines, and there was no violation," it concluded.