Google to Open App Payment Options in UK After Watchdog Probe

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Alphabet Inc.’s Google has offered to give Android app makers a choice of billing systems in the UK, the country’s competition regulator said.

“By breaking the link between app developers’ access to Google Play and Google’s payment system, the commitments could allow Google Play users to access new special offers and in-app deals that are not permitted under current Google Play rules,” the Competition and Markets Authority said in a statement on Wednesday.

Google’s Play Store accounts for more than 90% of all app downloads on Android devices in the UK, according to the CMA. While the company’s default approach is to tie these downloads to its own payment system, Google has begun allowing some apps to bill users directly as an alternative to paying through Google, a concession amid mounting antitrust concerns over its fees. The company is also letting some developers use alternative billing systems in Europe to comply with European Union regulations.

Together with Apple Inc., the Mountain View, California-based company has been the subject of international regulatory scrutiny over its dominance of smartphone operating systems. A global push to get the companies to open their platforms has resulted in actions such as in South Korea, where the government has mandated that they must provide a choice of payment handlers.

The CMA opened the investigation into whether Google had breached competition law in June. The regulator is consulting on whether Google’s steps are sufficient until May 19.

“While we’re pleased our investigation has resulted in Google offering to give in-app payment freedom to thousands of app developers, we need to make sure these commitments will work in practice,” said Ann Pope, senior director of antitrust at the CMA.

Google said in a blog post about the CMA’s announcement that it will “continue to listen to feedback and continue to invest to help developers thrive on Google Play.”

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