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Google halts KakaoTalk updates on Play Store in Korea after messaging app refused to remove its own payment links 

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Google has stopped providing updates to popular messaging app KakaoTalk in South Korea, according to a local report, after Kakao continued using an external payment link in its Android app, against Google’s new in-app payments policy. Google’s new policy requires developers selling digital goods and services to use Google’s first-party billing system, but Kakao has been using an external link to its own website.

This is the first time Google has stopped PlayStore users from updating an app after its new payments policy went into effect last month. KakaoTalk can be updated on other app operators such as Apple’s AppStore and OneStore, per the local media report. Two big questions now will be whether Google turns its attention to stopping updates on other apps similarly providing external payment links, or goes one step further and proceeds to remove them altogether.

“All developers selling digital goods and services in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system,” Google writes in a note detailing its new in-app payments policy. “Apps using an alternative in-app billing system will need to remove it in order to comply with the payments policy… Starting June 1, 2022, any app that is still not compliant will be removed from Google Play.” 

Google said last year it would comply with alternative billing systems in South Korea by allowing Android app developers to use third-party payment options, but to offer them alongside Google Play’s own billing system after the country passed its in-app payment law — the first of its kind in the world — in August last year. That law, pointedly, is regularly referred to as the “anti-Google law.”

Developers, however, can’t add links that point to their own websites inside their apps, which would allow their users to buy directly, bypassing Google’s billing entirely.

South Korean app developers and content providers have increased their paid subscription and service fees on Google’s Play due to the heavy 15-30% commissions now required following Google’s policy changes. 

South Korean content providers raise service fees in the wake of Google’s in-app payment policy

The Korea Communications Commission said in April that the prohibition of app developers from using the weblink payment option would breach South Korea’s app payment law that requires operators of app stores to allow third-party payments. The KCC told TechCrunch last month that it would keep an eye on Google to see if they would remove any app against its new policy. 

Apple announced last week that developers will have to submit a separate binary for iOS and iPadOS “distributed solely on the App Store in South Korea” to use a third-party payment system for the South Korea App Store.

TechCrunch has reached out to Kakao, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Google’s move. Google did not respond to requests for comment.

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