Google responds to Bandcamp’s hypocrisy in Play Store’s billing campaign and potential bans

In 2020, Google announced a “new” Play Store policy change to prevent apps from circumventing Google’s in-app billing rules. Companies like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify had ignored their billing policies years in their apps, allowing customers to purchase content and subscriptions without Google taking a cut, but the hammer had to fall. Although the change itself was delayed for a while, it finally gets into gear soon, and now Epic Games is taking Google to court to prevent Bandcamp from being ripped from the Play Store for not giving Google a slice of in-app sales.

Epic Games yesterday filed a preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Google. In fact, Epic Games (which now owns Bandcamp) is trying to get ahead of any Play Store ban for its app that may be imposed as a result of its refusal to adopt Google’s billing systems, which typically give Google a 15-30% reduction in in-app sales. As in previous Fortnite cases, Epic takes the position that it should not be required to adopt Google’s billing systems, even if it benefits from Play Store’s tools and distribution system. When it came to the company’s popular Fortnite game, that argument failed and it was kicked off in the Play Store in 2020, even though a legal dispute is underway.

Previously, there was a hazy kind of “exception” in place for certain apps. Google’s Play Store rules were not very well defined, and specific categories of apps (including music distribution and e-books) bypassed Play Store’s billing systems for years based on a specific reading of the policies. That’s why you’re able to purchase an eBook in the Kindle app directly on Android while you can not do so on an iPhone (so far). But that era is coming to an end, and even Spotify is adopting a new Play Store-friendly payment pilot.

Bandcamp and Epic have taken the perspective that enforcing Play Store’s billing policies would harm artists – Bandcamp, if you are not familiar, is a store for independent artists and music companies selling music and merch. Bandcamp claims that the new fee will force it to run its Android business at a loss or require it to disable digital sales in the Android app. We have to point out that Bandcamp already adheres to Apple’s almost identical rules in the other way and does not sell music through its app on iPhones.

According to the text of the application (which Google has also confirmed), Bandcamp was offered a 10% deal as part of its Media Experience Program, far lower than the standard rate of up to 30% that it would otherwise have demanded. (Google has also been known to offer other separate “sweetheart” offers outside of the Media Experience program for big names in the past, giving them a special price, although it is not clear if this is still happening or if such offers developed to the current program.) But Bandcamp claims that even these fees would be too much to continue doing business, according to page 10 of the application. Other potential issues Bandcamp is taking with Google’s billing system is that it takes too long to pay out, affecting how quickly artists can be paid, as well as more complaints about the work of implementing the change.

2022.04.29 Preliminary ban proposal by Ryne Hager on Scribd

Ironically, Bandcamp requires artists on their platform to accept a 15% cut to do business there. From a particular perspective, there is more than a little hypocrisy in taking a stand against platform access fees when you charge one yourself. No matter how “fair” Google’s Play Store billing practices are or are not, I doubt Bandcamp would be happy to allow artists to continue selling through its platform if they refused to accept the associated fee.

Bandcamp must adopt Play Store’s billing changes by June 1 in accordance with Google’s policies, otherwise it risks being removed from Google’s store. We’ve contacted Google for its side of things regarding the new conflict – or from another perspective, the recent part of Epic Games’ war on app stores – and we’ll update if and when we hear anything more. Update: Google’s statement is below

UPDATE: 2022/04/29 15:19 EST BY RYNE HAGER

Google responds

Following the announcement, Google gave us the following statement:

“This is another worthless claim from Epic, which is now using its newly acquired app Bandcamp to continue its efforts to avoid paying for the value that Google Play provides. We’ve been transparent about Play’s payment policy for more than 18 months, and as Epic knows, Bandcamp is entitled to a service fee of only 10% through the Plays Media Experience Program – far less than the fees they charge on their own platforms.Despite their claims, Android’s openness means that Bandcamp has more ways to distribute their app for Android users, including through other app stores, directly to users via their website or as a consumer-friendly app, as they do on iOS. ” – Google’s spokesman

Google separately pointed out that its Play Store billing fee is less than what Bandcamp charges artists. The company also reiterated many of the points we made in our own initial coverage, explaining that artists are also not allowed to bypass Bandcamp’s billing system to bypass its cut, even if that’s exactly what Bandcamp is trying to do. Google also pointed out that its policy only applies to digital goods and services, while Bandcamp also cuts back on physical goods. Google says that 99% of developers already adhere to their policies, and they work with the remaining developers to help them integrate the necessary changes.

An earlier version of this story also called the 10% completion a “sweetheart” deal, but Google tells us it’s standard for their Media Experience program.

Fortunately for Android customers, meanwhile, Bandcamp can still continue to distribute its app with any billing system it likes on its own, and customers are free to load it at ease. This is not iOS; you can get your apps on Android wherever you want, and developers can do whatever they want (including implementing their own billing systems) if customers get them outside the Play Store. The Epic Games app is without a doubt its own app store.

App Store billing and app installation sources are current topics of potential federal regulation right now in the United States. The Open Markets Act (supported by Epic) has still not been enacted into law, but some of the rules that have been considered with it include forcing iPhones to allow the installation of apps from sources outside the Apple App Store, forcing support to third-party apps. stores on all platforms and requires that Google and Apple both play well with third-party billing systems in their respective stores.

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