Google may bring user choice billing to the Play Store in the UK

Google Play Store on OnePlus 9
(Image credit: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced its intent to accept new commitments from Google regarding play store billing.
  • User choice billing (UCB) in the UK would give users and developers the choice of who receives payment for in-app purchases.
  • The changes would come as a phased rollout and wrap-up no later than October 2023.
  • The CMA is running its public consultation on its intent to accept Google's commitments until May 19, 2023.

Google announced on Wednesday that it has drafted a set of commitments to alleviate concerns over its Play Store billing practices.

The primary change to Google Play's rules would address the app store's seemingly constrictive practices, which mandate that developers use Google Play's own billing system. This may soon change in the U.K., as Google proposes extending user choice billing to the UK.

Developers would gain the ability to add alternative in-app billing systems alongside Google Play. Additionally, a developer could decide not to include Google Play at all when users attempt a purchase.

The commitments laid out are the result of a probe into Google by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regarding the anti-competitive nature of the Play Store's billing system requirement.

Should Google's proposal be accepted, if a user opts to use an alternative billing method, the developer's service fee will be reduced by 4%. If the developer of an app decides not to display Google Play as a payment option, their service will go down by 3%. Google states the service fee is in place as it is a business, and the fee is how it keeps both Android and Google Play afloat. 

Furthermore, Google states it plans on rolling the changes out in phases if needed. Developers of non-gaming apps would gain the ability to decide payment options for users before gaming apps get their shot no later than October 2023. Google's requirement for developers to meet the appropriate user protection is still in effect alongside service fees and conditions.

The company first announced user choice billing after South Korea ruled in favor of such an option as a requirement for app stores.

Google then tested user choice billing (UCB) to Spotify as the two worked together to introduce a new in-app experience for users and developers. Users could decide if they wanted to make a payment for Premium to Spotify or to Google. The company then expanded enrollment to reach developers in as many as 35 countries, including the United States.

"We appreciate the CMA’s thoughtful approach and the constructive dialogue we’ve had throughout this process," Google says in the blog post. "As always, we’ll continue to listen to feedback and continue to invest to help developers thrive on Google Play."

The CMA's intention to accept Google's commitments is now open to public feedback until May 19, 2023. Should they be accepted by all, Google will be required to act on the listed commitments.

Nickolas Diaz
News Writer

Nickolas is always excited about tech and getting his hands on it. Writing for him can vary from delivering the latest tech story to scribbling in his journal. When Nickolas isn't hitting a story, he's often grinding away at a game or chilling with a book in his hand.