Google said Wednesday it would allow some apps, such as Spotify, to offer their own billing system within the Google Play Store as part of a pilot program.
The move would allow those apps to bypass Google’s own payment system and key commissions it charges. The change comes as Google and Apple, the two largest app store operators, face complaints from regulators and developers that they are abusing their dominance in mobile software to force companies to use their own billing methods.
The test program kicks off with music streaming service Spotify, an ardent critic of the hefty commissions charged by Google and Apple. Spotify will showcase its own billing options on devices running Google’s Android software in addition to the payment system offered by the Google Play Store.
“This is an important milestone and the first in a major app store,” Sameer Samat, a Google vice president who oversees the Google Play Store, wrote in the blog post.
In its own blog post announcing a “multi-year agreement”, Spotify said it has long supported “platform fairness and expanded payment options” and expected the billing option to become available later this year. In 2019, the company filed a complaint with European regulators against Apple, arguing that the company was using its dominance in the app store to impose a “tax” to harm companies competing with its services, including Apple Music. .
Google said it would build on its experience to give users choice in billing systems in South Korea, which last year passed a law banning app stores from forcing developers to use their own billing systems.
The testing program is likely to languish the lucrative commissions Google has charged app developers for money earned on its platform. For years, Google and Apple received a 30 percent commission for digital goods or subscriptions sold in their app stores. Because that has recently led to developer uproar and scrutiny by regulators, Google and Apple have lowered their commissions for subscriptions and smaller developers.
Dan Jackson, a Google spokesperson, said the company would receive a “service fee” even if users don’t use the billing system, as it already does in South Korea. He went no further, noting that the pilot had just started and that it plans to work with Spotify and other partners to work out the details.
Last year, as part of a legal settlement, Apple said it would allow a series of apps that deliver digital media such as books, newspapers, music and video to direct customers to their own websites to pay for subscriptions.