Developers cry foul over Google’s 30% fee on all apps

Google faced strong backlash from South Korean developers after it announced it will enforce its app market’s billing system, which charges a 30 per cent fee to all app developers.

While Google has taken a 30 per cent cut for all in-app purchases on the Play store through its billing system, some apps have circumvented the rule by using other systems, such as direct credit card payments.

“We have clarified the language in our payments policy to be more explicit that all developers selling digital goods in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system,” Google said in a post on Monday, adding it would give app developers a one-year grace period to adopt the system, while it will start enforcing the billing system on the Play store’s new apps from January 20, 2021.

Google said the policy change will not affect the majority of app developers as nearly 97 per cent of those that sell digital goods already use the Play’s billing system. It added that just 2 per cent of South Korean app developers would be affected by the policy change.

The move prompted an outcry from South Korean app developers that worry it will harm the local app industry, reports Yonhap news agency.

Last month, even before Google’s official announcement, the Korea Internet Corporations Association, which represents major local tech companies, such as top portal operator Naver Corp, requested the country’s telecommunications regulator, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), to look into the then purported policy changes.

The group argued the move would lead to more fees on app users and further solidify the dominance of Google, which holds a strong grip on the local app market.

Google’s Play Store held a 63.4 per cent share of total app store sales in the country last year at 6 trillion won ($5 billion), compared with Apple’s App Store with a 24.4 percent stake at 2.3 trillion won, according to the Korea Mobile Internet Business Association.

Local app developers have also argued that Google’s move could be in violation of local telecommunications rules that prohibit unfair restrictions for users choosing services.