Google took down Paytm and Paytm First Games from its Play Store after the former alleged Paytm’s Cricket Fantasy game to be a breach of its gambling policies. The digital payments app accused Google of discrimination by pointing out that its Tez app has a similar strategy for cashback promotions. Let’s dig deeper into the issue.
Crux of the Matter
On 18th September 2020, Google blocked Paytm from its Play Store after the ‘PayTM Cricket League’ was started by the latter in its ‘PayTM First Games’ section. The move came one day before the cricketing league IPL was set to commence.
A policy update ahead of IPL was made by Google, which stated that they will discontinue apps that support any unregulated gambling.
About Paytm Cricket League
In this fantasy cricket gaming model, users would receive virtual stickers of cricket players on making certain transactions. They can then add these players in their virtual team and earn points based on the actual performance of the players. Top 1 lakh performers – based on cumulative points at the end of the tournament – would earn scratch cards that can fetch them rewards up to ₹1 lakh.
If an app leads consumers to an external website that allows them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes, it is a violation of its policies.Google
Google later restored the app a few hours later after Paytm rolled back the campaign. However, on Sunday, 20th September 2020 Paytm claimed that to get re-listed on the Play store, it was forced to roll back the UPI cashback and scratch card campaign even though it is legal in India. Paytm denies any violation of rules.
Allegations Of Discrimination
Paytm in its blog alleged Google of discrimination and mentioned that Google Pay’s campaign of Tez Shots mentioned “score runs to earn assured rewards up to ₹1 lakh” at the beginning of this cricket season. In Tez Shots games, a user can play multiple times and earn vouchers. Then they are qualified for a lucky draw through which they can get assured tickets for up to ₹1 lakh. They can further earn discounts and reward points on various services through their Google Pay app. Paytm said ‘either these cashback campaigns are not in breach of Play store policies, or, they have a different set of rules for their apps.’
What About Dream11 Then?
There has been a debate around whether Paytm First Games, Dream11, or any other Fantasy Sports game that utilizes a similar reward and cashback strategy on the basis of a real-time cricket match would be considered gambling.
In 2019, a Bombay High Court bench said that Dream11 was “undoubtedly a game of skill and not a game of chance”. Dream11’s app is also not listed on Google Play Store. Mobile Premier League, another sports fantasy contest app, is also not listed on the Play Store.
In response to the allegations, a spokesperson from Google stated that their policies do not allow any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate betting or support online casinos. If the policy violation is repeated they may take serious actions that may include terminating Google Play Developer accounts. These policies are enforced on all developers.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of Paytm asked for a formation of a new grouping which will give representation to the domestic tech firms. He added that since established industries such as NASSCOM and IAMAI are dominated by US-tech companies, a new platform will ensure that local tech firms have their voices represented.
Madhur Deora, president of One97 Communications, and owner of Paytm verbalized the issue, “You’ve got a player which regulates India’s digital ecosystem while competing with many companies in the same ecosystem”, and asked the problem to be taken into account.
Founders are coming together and there is a discussion on this topic. We will be talking to the government, lawmakers, and regulators. We would like to amplify the voice of the Indian startup community and our technology companies.Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder, Paytm
- PayPal filed a case against Paytm in the Indian trademark office for using a logo with a similar color combination to its own in 2016. PayPal claimed to be using the logo with the said color combination since 2007.
- Tez was a mobile payments service by Google, targeted at users in India, later folded into the new Google Pay app in 2018. Within 37 days after being launched, Tez got about 8.5 million installations.
- Paytm has alleged that telecom companies are not blocking numbers used for phishing activities and sued them for ₹100 crores in damages in the Delhi High Court. Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.
- The Tribune – Google Forced Paytm to roll back cashback campaign which is legal in India
- Google India Blog – Understanding Our Play Gambling Policies In India
- Business Today – Paytm Led Indian Startups to unionise against Google; Vijay Shekhar Sharma Throws Down the Gauntlet
- Business Today – Paytm blames Google of Discrimination after app removed from Play store
- TheEconomic Times – Google takes down Paytm from Play Store
- Tamil Pokkisham – Paytm First Games Dream11 Fantasy Cricket-Is It Gambling?