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Google pulls India’s Paytm app from Play Store for repeat policy violations

Google has pulled popular Indian financial services app Paytm from the Play Store for violating its gambling policies. Paytm is India’s most valuable startup and claims over 50 million monthly active users. Its marquee app, which competes with Google Pay in India, disappeared from the Play Store in the country earlier Friday.

Google said that Play Store prohibits online casinos and other unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting in India. Paytm, which promotes fantasy sports service within its marquee app, repeatedly violated Play Store’s policies, two people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Paytm’s fantasy sports service, called Paytm First Games, was also available as a standalone app and it has been pulled, too, from the Play Store.

The Android-maker, which maintains similar guidelines around gambling in most other markets, additionally noted that if an app leads consumers to an external website that allows them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes will also be deemed in violation of its Play Store policies.

In an email Google has sent to many firms in India, and was reviewed by TechCrunch, the company has asked developers to pause all advertising campaigns in their apps to drive users to websites that offer installation files of sports betting apps.

TechCrunch has reached out to Paytm for comment but has yet to hear back (see below). Google’s Pay app currently dominates the payments market in India.

Dear Paytm’ers,

Paytm Android app is temporarily unavailable on Google’s Play Store for new downloads or updates. It will be back very soon.

All your money is completely safe, and you can continue to enjoy your Paytm app as normal.

— Paytm (@Paytm) September 18, 2020

The announcement today from Google is also a preemptive attempt from the company to remind other developers about its gambling policies a day before the popular cricket tournament Indian Premier League is scheduled to kick off.

Previous seasons of IPL, which last for nearly two months and attract the attention of hundreds of millions of Indians, have seen a surge in apps that look to promote or participate in sports betting.

While sports betting is banned in India, fantasy sports, where users select their favorite players and win if their preferred teams or players play well, is not illegal in most Indian states.

A person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that Google has also asked Disney+ Hotstar, one of the most popular on-demand video streaming services in India, to display a warning before running ads about fantasy sports apps.

“We have these policies to protect users from potential harm. When an app violates these policies, we notify the developer of the violation and remove the app from Google Play until the developer brings the app into compliance,” wrote Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy, in a blog post.

“And in the case where there are 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,” she added.


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