Google’s South Korean operation has decided to comply with the nation’s new law that prohibits it from restricting payments to its own Play Store, either to pay for apps or for in-app purchases.
The law was enacted in September and was the world’s first such legislation. As such it is of considerable interest, as Google and Apple have both spent years saying that allowing third-party payments would compromise user security. Epic Games, which unilaterally enabled its own payment options for its iOS apps, has framed the issue as one of unfair monopolisation by Apple.
South Korean media have reported that Google country director Kim Kyung-hoon yesterday appeared before the nation’s Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee and said “While there are areas that are regretful, we respect the law”.
A Google spokesperson told The Register those reports are correct.
“We intend to comply with the Korean law, and we’ll continue to examine options that allow us to maintain the service fees that keep Android free and sustain our investments in the ecosystem. We’ll share more with developers in the coming weeks,” the spokesperson added.
That’s not just confirmation that Google will comply with the law, rather than attempt to fight it, but also a tacit admission that Google doesn’t see insurmountable technical barriers to making the necessary changes.
The statement is not, however, without menace. Google’s arguments against Korea’s law included the point that taking a 30 per cent slice of the price of digital goods funds its development of Android and the Play Store.
That the company will “examine options that allow us to maintain the service fees that keep Android free” suggests it is not going to just flick a switch and allow free rein to third-party payment systems.
Google and Apple are under pressure from both regulators and rivals to allow third-party payments. Microsoft leads the charge of the latter group, having recently reduced the cut it takes in its stores and allowed third-party storefronts.
Regulators in Europe, the USA, and Australia continue probes into whether app stores distort markets in ways that harm consumers. ®
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