Netflix can no longer avoid Google Play in-app purchase fees

Google is giving apps on Google Play that require technical work to integrate its billing system until September 30, 2021 to complete any needed updates. (Google Play)

The Google Play Store is making clarifications to its policy around charging developers service fees for in-app purchases and Netflix will feel the effects.

In a blog post, Google said it has always required developers who distribute their apps on Play to use Google Play’s billing system if they offer in-app purchases of digital goods, and pay a service fee from a percentage of the purchase.

“We only collect a service fee if the developer charges users to download their app or they sell in-app digital items, and we think that is fair,” the company wrote. “But we have heard feedback that our policy language could be more clear regarding which types of transactions require the use of Google Play’s billing system, and that the current language was causing confusion.”

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Google said its payment policy language is now more explicit in stating that all developers selling digital goods in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system. As the New York Times pointed out, this impacts Netflix and Spotify, which had avoided the payments by asking users to provide a credit card to pay them directly.

Products that use Google Play in-app purchases include subscription streaming music, video, book, or other media services; ad-free version of apps; and virtual game products including coins, gems, extra lives or turns, special items or equipment, characters or avatars, additional levels or playtime.

Google is giving apps on Google Play that require technical work to integrate its billing system until September 30, 2021 to complete any needed updates.

The issues around service fees to developers for use of proprietary in-app purchase systems has been in sharp focus as Apple and Epic, the publisher behind “Fortnite,” fight over fees. This summer, Epic updated its game to allow users to bypass the App Store’s in-app purchase system which lead Apple to blocking the “Fortnite.” The companies are currently fighting it out in federal court and the case could go to trial next summer.

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