Understanding Google Play’s payments policy

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Using Google Play's billing system has always been required for developers offering in-app purchases of digital goods and services within apps distributed on Google Play. For users to trust a platform, it’s important that they have safe, reliable ways to pay, and can manage their payments in a central location. 

We’ve clarified the language in our Payments policy to be more explicit, so that all developers selling digital goods and services in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system. Any existing apps currently using an alternative billing system will need to remove it to comply with this update. You can find details about compliance timelines and frequently asked questions below.

About Google Play's billing system

Google Play's billing system is a service that enables you to sell digital products and content in your Android app. You can use Google Play's billing system to sell a one-time product or subscriptions on a recurring basis. Visit  the Android developers site to find out how to integrate Google Play's billing system.

Purchases that require Google Play's billing system

  • Digital items (such as virtual currencies, extra lives, additional playtime, add-on items, characters and avatars);
  • Subscription services (such as fitness, game, dating, education, music, video and other content subscription services);
  • App functionality or content (such as an ad-free version of an app or new features not available in the free version); and
  • Cloud software and services (such as data storage services, business productivity software and financial management software).

Purchases that are not supported by Google Play's billing system

  • Purchases or rentals of physical goods, such as groceries, clothing, houseware, electronics;
  • Purchases of physical services, such as transportation services, airfares, gym memberships, food delivery; and
  • Payment of a credit card or utility bill.

Google Play's billing system must not be used when payment is for peer-to-peer payments, for content that facilitates online gambling or for any product category deemed unacceptable under Google’s Payment Centre content policies.

Compliance timelines

All new apps submitted after 20 January 2021 will need to be in compliance with the new Payments policy in order to be approved for distribution on Google Play.

Any existing app that is currently using an alternative billing system will need to remove it to comply with this update. For these apps, we are offering an extended grace period until 30 September 2021 to make any required changes. 

New and existing apps submitted by developers based in India will have until 31 March 2022 to comply, and new and existing apps submitted by developers based in South Korea will have until 30 September 2021 to comply.

Given the challenges of the last year, we have heard that some developers need extra time to bring apps into compliance with the payments policy. Developers will be able to submit a formal request for an extension that will be evaluated on an app-by-app basis with the latest possible date of compliance of 31 March 2022. You can use this form to request an extension.

Frequently asked questions

Can I distribute my app via other Android app stores or through my website? 

Yes, you can distribute your app however you like. As an open ecosystem, most Android devices come pre-installed with more than one store – and users can install others. Android provides developers the freedom and flexibility to distribute apps through other Android app stores, directly via websites or device preloads, all without using Google Play's billing system.

Many businesses have needed to move their previously physical services online (e.g. digital live events). Will these apps need to use Google Play's billing system?

We recognise that the global pandemic has resulted in many businesses having to navigate the challenges of moving their physical business to digital and engaging customers in a new way, for example, moving in-person experiences and classes online. For the next 12 months, these businesses will not need to comply with our payments policy, and we will continue to reassess the situation over the next year. For developers undergoing these changes, we're eager to hear from you and work with you to help you reach new users and grow your online businesses, while enabling a consistent and safe user experience online.

Do Google's apps have to follow this policy too?

Yes. Google Play’s developer policies – including the requirement that apps use Google Play’s billing system for in-app purchases of digital goods – apply to all apps on Google Play, including Google’s own apps.

Can I communicate with my users about alternative ways to pay?

Yes. Outside of your app you are free to communicate with them about alternative purchase options. You can use email marketing and other channels outside of the app to provide subscription offers and even special pricing.

Within an app, developers may not lead users to a payment method other than Google Play’s billing system. This includes directly linking to a web page that could lead to an alternative payment method or using language that encourages a user to purchase the digital item outside of the app.

Developers can refer users to administrative information – like an account management page, privacy policy or to a help centre – as long as the webpage does not eventually lead to an alternative payment method.

For services and products that are consumption only (apps that do not enable users to purchase access to digital goods or services from within the app), developers may choose to provide additional information about purchasing options without direct links, including using language like:

  • 'You can purchase this book directly on our website'
  • 'Go to our website to upgrade your subscription to Premium'
  • 'This movie isn’t available to rent in the app. However, any movie that you rent through ourwebsite.com will be immediately available to view in the app'
  • 'Need extra lives? Head to our website to purchase more'
Can I communicate with my users about promotions on other platforms?

Of course. We're an app developer too, and we know how important it is not to restrict your ability to communicate with your users. You can email them or otherwise communicate outside of the app information about your offerings, even if they are different on Google Play than in other places.

Can I have different app features, prices and experience depending on the platform?

Yes. We do not require parity across platforms. You can create different versions of your app to support different platforms, features and pricing models.

Can I offer a consumption-only (reader) app on Play?

Yes. Google Play allows any app to be consumption-only, even if it is part of a paid service. For example, a user could login when the app opens and the user could access content paid for somewhere else.

Does your billing policy change depending on what category my app is in?

No. Business or consumer apps, and verticals like music or email, are all treated the same on Google Play.

Can I offer my customers refunds directly?

Yes. You can continue to issue refunds to your customers and other customer support directly.

Will Google Play allow cloud gaming apps?

Yes. Cloud game streaming apps that comply with Google Play’s policies from any developer are welcome on Google Play.

Should apps that provide goods or services, like insurance, stock trades, investment consulting or tax preparation and filing assistance use Google Play's billing system?

No. Purchases for goods or services like insurance, stock trades, investment consulting or tax preparation and filing should not use Google Play’s billing system.

My app provides clinical services. Should I use Google Play's billing system for those transactions?

Transactions involving regulated clinical services should not use Google Play’s billing system. Regulated clinical services include services provided by or on behalf of a licensed healthcare provider that is intended to diagnose or manage (prevent, treat, mitigate or cure) medical conditions. These services may include consulting with a doctor, receiving a medical prescription or treatment planning by a licensed healthcare professional.

Does the requirement to use Google Play's billing system apply to purchases of goods or services that can't be used within the app?

Play’s payments policy only applies to goods and services that can be used within the Play ecosystem. In other words, purchases of digital goods or services that can only be consumed outside of an app and cannot be accessed in an app do not require Google Play’s billing system. Examples include phone ringtones; content that can only be accessed on a website; and apps that manage cloud service platforms but don’t provide access to that cloud storage in-app.

Do I need to use Google Play billing system to sell gift cards in my app?

No. Google Play’s billing system is not required for the sale of in-app gift cards, regardless of whether the gift card is an eGift card or one that is physically mailed to the user.

Can I issue loyalty or reward points in my app without using Google Play's billing system?

Yes. Earned or awarded points can be issued in-app without using Google Play’s billing system. Users can also exchange those earned or rewarded points in-app for digital goods and services without Google Play’s billing system. However, bear in mind that if these points (or other types of virtual currency) are sold in-app, Google Play’s billing system must be used.

I'm a telecommunication or Internet Service Provider. How does this policy impact my apps?

If you’re a telecommunication, broadband, multichannel satellite, cable or managed IPTV (referred to as a 'physical service') service provider, you may be eligible to combine certain digital goods/services, which are also available through your non-mobile sales channels, with your customer’s existing physical service bill.  The customer’s physical service bill must be used as the form of payment and those digital goods/services can only be sold in your apps where users can manage their physical service or where in-app purchases are only available to your physical service subscribers.  Examples include:

  • Offering standard digital/physical service subscription bundles that are broadly available in non-mobile sales channels and billed to the user's physical service bill.
  • Offering transactional video on demand, music, digital comics or digital books behind a paying digital service subscription that is billed to the user's physical service bill.
  • Offering video on demand to users subscribed to a physical multichannel satellite, cable or managed IPTV service.

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