INTERVIEW: Paytm trains its guns on Google while the payments app is back in Play Store

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  • On Friday, Paytm was banned from the Google Play Store for over seven hours.
  • While Google released a statement it doesn’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting, Paytm had another story to tell.
  • By the end of the day, Paytm was back on the app store, however questions regarding the short ban on Paytm continued.
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On Friday afternoon, Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma and his thousands of employees were in for a rude shock – Paytm was banned from the Google Play Store, a day before the Indian Premier League is scheduled to start.

By the end of the day, Paytm was back on the app store, however questions regarding the short ban on Paytm continued.

Google released a statement it doesn’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting. “This includes if an app leads consumers to an external website that allows them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes, it is a violation of our policies,” said the company’s statement.

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However, Paytm had a different story to tell. Paytm said that its recently launched mode of gamification where after every transaction you get a scratch card with a cricket sticker (a player's image and name), was the reason for the ban.

“If a user collects five stickers then you would get a cashback, it’s as simple as that. Out of the blue and for reasons best known to Google, they considered it gambling. Whereas, their own payment app runs a similar promotion where you get scratch cards and then get money from that. We are a bit surprised because of that,” a Paytm spokesperson told Business Insider.

While Google in its statement said that when an app violates the policies, they notify the developer of the violation and remove the app from Google Play until the developer brings the app into compliance. “And in the case where there are repeated policy violations, we may take more serious action which may include terminating Google Play Developer accounts,” it said.

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However, Paytm said that it was only today that it was notified regarding the scratch card ‘violation’. Earlier in the beginning of September, there was a different violation regarding Paytm First Games. “Today you can go and advertise about a fantasy gaming app on any other app but Google says that you can’t promote your own sister app. This meant that Paytm can promote any other app but not our own fantasy gaming app. This is drawing on the lines of anti-competitiveness. Today’s violation was absolutely Google’s single-minded understanding of what the game is. They clubbed it both under the same ‘policies’ violation whereas they are two different things,” said the spokesperson.

‘Google’s policies have to adhere to the law of the land’

Interestingly, Paytm First Games continues to exist in the Apple App Store, where it was launched a month ago. Google and Apple have different approaches towards fantasy gaming. While Google takes strict action against any game that is related to betting online, Apple doesn’t seem to have any qualms about that. In fact, Google allows fantasy gaming apps on the Play Store in the US.

“Apple is a bit more liberal in their policies and hence more supportive of app ecosystems specifically when it comes to real money gaming. While Google allows fantasy gaming apps to be listed on the playstore in the US, what we are trying to ask is why an inferior treatment for apps in India,” said the Paytm spokesperson.
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Google’s removal of apps has often been questioned, even though the tech giant has always been clear about its processes to be followed by an app to be on the Play Store. Earlier, another payments app, Mobikwik, had been removed from the Play Store for not conforming to its ‘advertising rules’.

“The more important thing that needs to be considered is that when our country is on the cusp of becoming a huge digital app ecosystem, how much is it possible to do when we have an entire ecosystem being ruled by policies which aren’t in coherence with the law of the land. If a simple scratch card can be read as gambling and of the larger apps out there Paytm can be banned, I’m actually worried about what happens to the smaller apps,” said the spokesperson.

Business Insider reached out to Google for its response on specific charges made by Paytm but the spokesperson said that the tech giant has nothing more to add to its earlier statement.
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Paytm says your money is safe and the app will be back soon on Play Store


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