Home >Companies >News >Paytm hits back at Google, terms its brief ban from Play Store as ‘arm-twisting’

Bengaluru: Two days after its main app was taken down from the Google Play Store, payments firm Paytm in a new blog post on Sunday called its temporary ban from the Android app store 'arm-twisting’ by the global search major.

Stating its side of the story, Paytm said Google didn’t give it an opportunity to explain its new cashback sticker feature. The ban amounting to Google insinuating Paytm to be a gambling app is defamatory in nature, the Noida-based firm said in the blog.

“This (removing Indian apps temporarily from the Play Store) 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 said in its blog on Sunday evening.

Paytm also reiterated that its delisting from the Play Store was owing to its new cashback feature, which it launched to users on Friday morning, according to Google’s mail.

“There is a bigger question here that the Indian startup ecosystem and developers should 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," said Paytm accusing Google.

On Friday morning, at around 11:30, Paytm said that it received an email from Google Play Support informing that the Paytm Android app had been delisted, since it doesn’t comply with Google’s policy around ‘gambling’.

“Your app contains 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’s blog said, quoting the memo from Google.

Paytm also said that its cashback campaign was within the guidelines, with no rules being broken, with Google’s payment app, Google Pay running a similar campaign this IPL season called ‘Tez Shots’.

“We maintain that our cashback campaign was within guidelines, as well as all laws of the land. We did not break any rules and there was no violation. It is not related to gambling in any manner whatsoever," according to the blog.

On Friday morning, both the main Paytm app and fantasy gaming Android app ‘Paytm First Games’ were removed from the Play Store. Google objected to Paytm’s integration of real-money gaming apps or websites into Paytm’s main payments app, a person familiar with the development said.

Responding to these allegations, Paytm in its blog accepted that while Google Play Support reached out to the company on three different occasions (on August 20th, August 28th and September 1st) with some concerns on a separate matter of Paytm First Games’ promotion through the Paytm app.

However, Paytm said that it had complied with Google’s ask on the matter immediately, in spite of disagreeing with the policy, in general.

“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.We wish to make it clear that driving traffic or promoting fantasy sports is not gambling! [ …] Paytm First Games can do a paid promotion on YouTube (which is owned by Google), but it is not allowed to do the same advertisement on the Paytm app, as per Google Policy," said Paytm in its blog.

Paytm also added that Google has enormous control over which apps a user downloads through its Play Store policies, while making billions of dollars in advertising revenues from the Indian startups that make these apps.

Mint also recently reported that the ban on Paytm First Games may have been because of the efforts of Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), which said Google was favouring certain fantasy gaming apps, hinting at Paytm First Games.

FIFS counts sports technology startup, Dream11, as its founding member, along with MyTeam11 and Fancode, as its platinum members.

"While Paytm did not directly engage in, or promote sports betting or gambling, it did have links to third-party sites which did. The ease of using Paytm on these third-party apps may have been viewed by Google as the element which makes Paytm as supporting these sites. Since many other apps are also promoting betting and gambling websites through ads and pop-ups, if Google applies the same standard, I would expect more apps will get taken off the Play Store," said Akash Karmakar, Partner, Law Offices of Panag & Babu.

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