Digital payments company Paytm on Sunday alleged that Google “arm-twisted” it to withdraw its Unified Payments Interface cashback campaign even as its own digital payments app Google Pay ran a similar promotion. Paytm called the technology firms decision to remove its application from the Google Play store “unjustified”.
“We maintain that our cashback campaign was within guidelines, as well as all laws of the land,” Paytm said in a blog post. “We did not break any rules and there was no violation. It is not related to gambling in any manner whatsoever.”
The digital payments company detailed the sequence of events which led to the removal of their app on September 18. “This will be familiar to all Indian internet companies since they face similar arm-twisting and fear of Google’s dominance over India’s digital ecosystem every day,” it added.
Google cited their policies on gambling as a reason for removal. The app was restored hours after Paytm removed the cashback feature. “Your app contains content that doesn’t comply with the gambling policy as it offers games with ‘loyalty’ [eg. engagement or activity] points that (1) are accrued or accelerated via real-money purchases which (2) can be exchanged for items or prizes of real-world monetary value,” Google said in an email to Paytm.
Paytm claimed it was not given a chance to respond to the allegations and said it was forced to comply with Google’s mandate of removing their UPI cashback offer and scratch cards to get re-listed.
It further alleged that Google itself ran similar campaigns, citing Google Pay’s “Tez Shots” campaign where customers can win rewards of up to Rs 1 lakh. “Presumably, such cashback campaigns of Google Pay are not in breach of [Google] Play Store policies, or maybe they are, but a different set of rules apply to Google’s own apps,” the company wrote.
It also said that the Google Play Support team had written to them about on three occasions about other violations in connection with Paytm First Games’ promotion through the Paytm app. “While we strenuously disagreed with the allegation that we are breaching the policy [and we disagree with the policy itself too], we immediately complied with the diktat that barred us from promoting our gaming subsidiary,” the company said.
The company also pointed out Google’s policy, which allows Paytm First Games to run paid promotions on YouTube but not do the same on the their app.
Paytm also said there were “bigger questions” that the Indian startup ecosystem and developers should think about. “As a startup, we are running law-abiding businesses and building for India,” it said. “Google and its employees are making policies which are over and above the laws of our country, and are arbitrarily implementing them.”
Paytm, one of the major players in India’s digital payments markets, was founded by Vijay Shekhar Sharma and is owned by One97 Communications Limited.