Google sends notices to Swiggy, Zomato for 'violation' of Play Store guidelines
Food delivery apps Swiggy and Zomato have received notices from Google stating that the in-app gamification feature used by both platforms violate its Play Store guidelines, multiple sources told ET.

Zomato confirmed the development to ET and termed the notice “unfair”.

“We are a small company and have already realigned our business strategy to comply with Google’s guidelines. We will be replacing Zomato Premier League with a more exciting program by this weekend,” a company spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Swiggy declined to comment but said the restaurant discovery platform had temporarily paused its in-app gamification product.

“Earlier, the notice was to comply with the guidelines by Thursday, but Google has given an extension. Swiggy has also asked for more clarity on Google’s policies,” a person directly aware of the matter said.

Read: Explained: Google’s new Play Store policy

For both the food delivery companies, major cricketing event IPL has been touted as the best time to garner a larger share of consumer minds as well as wallets, and gamification features were a part of increasing engagement on the app as Zomato and Swiggy do not operate any gaming platforms, industry experts said.

Google did not respond to ET’s email till press time on Wednesday.

The development comes 12 days after Paytm’s app was temporarily delisted from Google Play Store after the US-based technology behemoth said that the IPL-based cashback promotion flouted its anti-gambling policy.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the CEO of Paytm, had in an interview to ET called out Google for enforcing “arbitrary” bans of mass-market applications without regulatory consultations despite being compliant with local laws. Sharma had called the control exerted by Google on the Indian internet space “an ecosystem concern.”

Since the move, several Indian founders and internet ecosystem players, including rival PhonePe’s CEO Sameer Nigam have been vocal in their support of Paytm and criticism of Google.

Meanwhile, the tech giant, whose Android operating system powers the majority of Indian smartphones, is also facing the ire of the larger tech and startup community in the country for enforcing a policy that will require developers selling digital goods to use its in-app payment system, giving it a 30% commission on each transaction.

Earlier this week, Paytm reinstated its cashback feature on UPI payments for in-app promotion of the IPL with tweaks, to bypass Google’s Play Store policy.

According to a source, Swiggy representatives may meet with Google on Thursday to discuss possible tweaks on their gamification feature to get it back on its application store.

For food delivery businesses, IPL is a crucial time to push for customer acquisition, and transactions. In fact, after a weak quarter, food delivery sales have recovered an additional 10% in September over the previous month, to touch 85% pre-Covid-19 numbers, according to a report by Zomato.

While Delhi and Mumbai are nearing full recovery, with 95% of pre-Covid-19 sales, metros such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai are still behind the curve with 80% recovery. Some cities, such as Kolkata, Patna, Jamshedpur, Ranchi, and Siliguri have recovered completely and have exceeded pre-Covid-19 sales levels.

For years, Google and Apple have charged a 30% commission for apps selling digital goods on their app stores. While Apple has been strict about enforcing the fee, Google has typically been lax about it, due to which companies have bypassed this system.

In a blog post, Google clarified that it will be more explicit about enforcement in future.

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