Amazon users in the US, the UK, and many other countries can no longer buy Kindle e-books through Amazon’s Android apps as the company dodges the Play Store’s billing requirements for digital purchases, the BBC reported.
When attempting to purchase Kindle e-Books from the Amazon Shopping app, the user is now prompted to “buy on Amazon.com” website. There is no link that lets the user be easily redirected to Amazon’s site to complete the purchase. Instead, there is a disclaimer at the bottom of the page titled: “Why can’t I buy on the app?” If the user clicks this link, a message appears, stating:
“To remain in compliance with the Google Play Store policies, you will no longer be able to buy new content from the app. You can build a reading list on the app and buy on the Amazon website [sic] from your browser.”
Considering that Google has separate deadlines for compliance with its new Play Store policies across the globe, one can assume countries like India, where this rule is yet to be enforced, may also eventually lose the ability to purchase e-books on Amazon apps.
What does Google’s billing policy say?
In September 2020, Google – in a global announcement – said it would be enforcing rules that require app developers to mandatorily use its in-app payment system and remove external payment links. As per these new rules, companies with an annual turnover above USD one million must pay a 30 percent commission on all in-app purchases to Google.
Non-complying apps will not be able to offer updates, and will ultimately be removed from the Google Play Store starting June 1, according to Google. The order faced severe backlash from the Indian startup community as well as the government. On March 31, the Competition Commission of India, which had opened an investigation into Google, noted that the company is following “discriminatory practices” by not following the billing policy for some of its own apps.
The tech giant subsequently pushed the deadline of the implementation in India to March 2022 and finally now to October 2022. It has also reduced the commissions from 30% to 15% for the first USD one million of revenue that the developer earns each year. It lowered the Play Store subscription fee for e-book and music streaming apps to 10 percent. Google also stated that less than three percent of its developers globally pay a service fee, 99 percent of whom qualify to pay 15 percent or less.
Apple has had a similar policy in effect since 2011. Publishers and content sellers must remove any links within their apps to outside-the-App Store purchasing options. They must also pay Apple a 30 percent commission on any new digital media subscription from it’s store.
Amazon has been dodging Google’s policy for years now
For the past two years, apps like Amazon and Netflix have skirted Google Play Store’s rules when it comes to selling digital goods. A specific interpretation of the Play Store’s pre-2020 policy was used by apps like Netflix, Kindle, and Hulu to allow customers to sign up for subscriptions and buy media separately from in-app billing, provided that they give Google a cut.
Now, with the new billing policy changes coming into enforcement in the United States, starting in June, many Android apps have removed in-app digital product purchases in their May updates. Hulu has removed the option to sign up for service on its Android app. Meanwhile, Epic Games-owned Bandcamp is suing Google to try to prevent its Play Store-distributed app from being yanked from the store for non-compliance with the billing rules.
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