Google Play blocks KakaoTalk update in South Korea over billing method

Google Play Store showing the games tab
(Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has halted updates to messaging app KakaoTalk in South Korea for offering its own billing method.
  • The Play Store has a standing rule for developers to use Google’s first-party billing system for in-app purchases.
  • KakaoTalk is temporarily offering a direct app installation file in response to the block.

Google Play's current billing system policy has sparked controversies in various parts of the world due to its restrictive attitude towards third-party payment methods. South Korea, in particular, passed a bill last year prohibiting tech giants from forcing developers to use their first-party billing method, but that hasn't stopped Google from cracking down on the policy's first casualty.

A new report from South Korea says that the search giant has halted Play Store updates to KakaoTalk, a popular messaging app in South Korea, due to billing issues (via TechCrunch). The app's Android version still includes an external payment link to its website as of June 1, when Google's billing system policy in the country took effect.

According to the report, the messaging app keeps using its own billing method, allowing users to buy items outside of Google Play. While the Mountain View-based giant currently allows eligible third-party payments in South Korea as part of its new policy, developers must only offer them as an option alongside Google's first-party method. This excludes external links. KakaoTalk apparently didn't follow this rule, resulting in the block.

Nonetheless, KakaoTalk remains functional for Android users in the country, sans the necessary updates. Alternatively, it can be downloaded via Apple's App Store along with a direct app installation file. However, it risks being removed entirely from the Play Store if it doesn't obey Google's rulebook.

Android Central has reached out to Google for comment and will update this article when we receive a response.

In light of Google's move against KakaoTalk, it won't be surprising if other apps that try to bypass the Play Store's billing system will see a similar consequence in the future. It remains to be seen how South Korea's telecommunication authorities react to Google's decision.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer & Reviewer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.