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Google sends notices to Zomato and Swiggy for Play Store violations

Google has warned Zomato that its app would be removed from the Play Store for offering users a chance win “real money worth prizes” based on outcomes in real world tournaments. Such offers violate Play Store policies on real money gaming and contests, per Google. A similar notice has been sent to Swiggy. This was first reported by The Economic Times.

The game in question is the Zomato Pro League, an IPL-specific campaign, that rewards users with cashbacks for correctly predicting outcomes of IPL matches. Users have to correctly answer questions about upcoming or ongoing matches, such as which team could win and how many sixes would be scored in the match. This presumably violated Google’s policies, which disallow features that let users wager “to obtain a prize of real world monetary value”. It’s worth noting that Zomato had run this campaign last year as well.

Google said Zomato needed to make “appropriate changes” by October 1 and submit an update, or it would be removed from the Play Store.

“Yes, we have received a notice from Google. We believe that the notice is unfair, but we are a small company and have already realigned our business strategy to comply with Google’s guidelines. We will be replacing Zomato Premier League with a more exciting program by this weekend,” Zomato said in a statement.

Swiggy was also offering cashbacks for correct IPL predictions: With IPL 2020 kicking off, Swiggy also started its Match Day Mania campaign on September 17, with multiple cashback and coupon options. The campaign includes cashback prizes on a “Predict & Win” game: if users correctly predict how a game would go, they are rewarded with cashbacks. A generous cashback of Rs 6,000 could be earned if the user made a prediction after ordering food on Swiggy.

For now, Swiggy has paused “gamification” on the app and is in talks with Google to further understand the situation. It’s unclear what specific “gamification” feature Swiggy has paused, it declined to comment further. Incidentally, the cashbacks were being offered by Paytm First Games, a fantasy gaming platform that Google removed from the Play Store earlier this month.

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IPL is ripe season for food delivery, especially this year with many people watching it from their homes. Zomato also saw recovery in September, with Delhi and Mumbai recovering to 95% of pre-COVID business and other metros recovering to 80%.

Anger against Google’s “dominance”, industry body to hold meeting

The development comes just a few days after Paytm was temporarily removed from the Play Store for what Google said were violations of its real-money gambling policies. The conversation on an “Indian” app store was set off then, and has intensified after Google announced that it would strictly enforce the 30% cut for all in-app purchases of digital goods on Play Store apps.

Google will no longer permit apps to lead users to external websites, which is used to bypass Google’s payment policy completely. App developers, including those such as Netflix, Spotify, and dozens of apps in India, have till September 30, 2021 to restructure their payment systems.

Industry body IAMAI will be meeting with companies next week to discuss the “perceived dominance” of Google’s billing system. “Just because Google owns the gate and the gateway to the digital ecosystem of this country, they should not act arbitrarily and enforce their rules and regulations which are contrary to our country’s laws,” Vishwas Patel, founder of CCAvenues said in a statement.

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