Paytm accuses Google of arm-twisting, prepares for legal battle

Paytm legal battle Google
Image by Ingka D. Jiw |

India’s top fintech company Paytm has accused Google of “arm-twisting” and said that the internet major’s decision to take down the Paytm app from Play Store was “arbitrary”.

Paytm’s founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma said that he is ready for a long-drawn battle against Google and has called for the formation of a new grouping which gives equal representation to the domestic technology companies.

“All options are open…legal recourse is defined by the law of the country. If the law is aligned to protect the interest of the country, there will be a recourse. I can assure you that is what the future will be,” he said in an interview with India’s financial newspaper the Economic Times.

Google on Friday removed the Paytm app from its Android app store for violating its policy on sports betting activities and said that the company’s scratch card-based cricket promotion had breached the Play store’s gambling policies. 

The app, however, was restored within a few hours but Paytm was forced to remove the cashback campaign.

Sharma said that Google’s arbitrary action is a concern for India and for the government since Paytm is not a gambling app. “I feel agitated…even if you follow local laws and regulations, Google can arbitrarily shut down your app.”

A Google spokesperson Monday issued a statement to the Indian media about its Play Store policies in response to the Paytm incident. “Offering cashback and vouchers alone do not constitute a violation of our Google Play gambling policies. Last week we reiterated our Play Store gambling policies. Our policies don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting, including daily fantasy sports in India.”

“We enforce our policies very thoughtfully to provide a safe and secure experience for consumers, while also giving developers the platform and tools they need to build sustainable businesses. In the case of repeated policy violations, we may take more serious action which may include terminating Google Play Developer accounts. Our policies are applied and enforced on all developers consistently,” the spokesperson added.

The fintech major said since Google ‘s Android operating system powers 97% of smartphones in India and hence, the internet major has “enormous control” over apps via its Play Store policies. “My intent always is that Indian startups should get a level playing field,” Sharma said.

Paytm’s Sharma is now working on bringing the whole start-up ecosystem together to raise the issue with the Indian government and lawmakers, including India’s antitrust body, the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

“Yes, we will bring the whole ecosystem together. Founders are coming together and expressing huge concern. We run in this universe controlled by an American organisation that dominates the Indian tech landscape and has a say on Indian businesses,” Sharma told the publication.

Sharma said that the step taken by Google doesn’t even fall under the country’s legal ambit.

“Legal recourse of businesses in this country must be in this country. We need a framework where Google should have to take consent of Indian authorities before taking such action,” he added.

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