Google and Indian companies meeting regularly, aim to resolve app billing dispute soon: Ashwini Vaishnaw

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Google and Indian companies are meeting regularly in a newly-established forum to deliberate on the Big Tech company’s app billing issue, and they are expected to come up with a solution within the next seven to eight weeks, Union minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on March 9.

This comes a few days after Google delisted over 100 apps belonging to Indian companies for not complying with the company’s app billing policy for an extended period of time.

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Following government intervention, the Big Tech platform temporarily reinstated the apps. It was then decided that these companies will towards finding a solution to the contentious payment issue.

“I’m glad that Google has agreed on our request. And both the sides are now, they are meeting regularly. We created a forum in which the startups and Google, both of them can kind of interact and come up with a suggestion,” the minister for electronics and information technology told Moneycontrol in an exclusive interview in Bengaluru.

“… I was told that they’ll require about seven, eight weeks to come up with a common solution. Once they arrive at a common solution, we’ll have a discussion jointly and then come up with the next steps,” Vaishnaw added.

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Google currently, much to the chagrin of app developers and many companies,  levies a 15-30 percent fee for in-app purchases and subscriptions. For developers that choose its third-party billing option, Google levies a commission of 11-26 percent, marking a reduction of 4 percent on the service fee.

On March 1, for non-compliance of this policy, Google delisted over 100 apps of digital companies including Bharat Matrimony, Info Edge (which runs Naukri, 99acres, and Jeevansathi),, and Kuku FM from Play Store.

The move was heavily criticised by the industry. Vaishnaw had earlier also reiterated that delisting of Indian apps cannot be permitted.

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“Ultimately, the startup ecosystem and especially the people who have created so much value in our society, in our economy, in our people’s lives, creating such innovative solutions, they have to be protected. They have to be supported. So I’m so glad that Google has kind of agreed on our request. And both the sites are now, they are meeting regularly,” Vaishnaw told Moneycontrol on March 9.

‘Testing AI models necessary’

During the interview the minister was also asked about the March 1, advisory by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, which urged intermediaries to seek explicit government permission before deploying new AI products.

The advisory evoked outcry from not just the Indian AI ecosystem, but worldwide. Experts termed the advisory as “regressive” and one that will “throttle innovation”.

“We have seen some of the large social media intermediaries and platforms which have rolled out AI systems without testing them, correct? And the impact of such AI systems without testing them if they roll out, the impact on our democracy is huge,” Vaishnaw told the publication.

“We have responsibility towards our society. We cannot let such AI models be brought into public domain without proper testing. That was the purpose. The purpose is not to prevent the startups from innovating…If such large companies roll out their AI systems testing, then it’s unfair,” he added.

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