Developers, companies and regulators have been trying to pressure Google and Apple to change their App Store commission structure for more than two years now. Last month it appeared that Google was ready to play nice. The company announced a pilot program with Spotify that will allow the company to collect payments outside of Google’s own billing system. The pilot, which will roll out in select markets, will allow developers to bypass Google’s fees. If things go as planned, what Google calls “user billing choice” may soon be available to app developers around the world.
But two companies not part of the pilot – Audible and Amazon-owned Barnes & Noble – seem surprised that they don’t get the same treatment as Spotify. A Google Play policy change that took effect on March 31 requires purchases to go through Google Play’s billing systems. And the two companies, which had been aware of the changes for more than 18 months, were caught off guard. As of now, Android users cannot purchase Amazon Audible titles or Barnes & Noble eBooks in these respective apps.
Explaining the billing issues to The Verge, Barnes & Noble said it had “no option to participate in an alternative billing program.”
Protocol reached out to Barnes & Noble and Audible, but the two companies could not be reached for comment.
If you’re a Barnes & Noble NOOK Android app user, don’t panic. Due to the billing policy update, users cannot purchase books directly through the app. However, Android users can still purchase content from BN.com, which will sync with their NOOK app library, according to the Barnes & Noble website. Users can also continue to purchase through the app on their phone, as long as they don’t update to the new version, 6.1.
Audible listeners will find themselves in a similar situation. They can still purchase titles from Audible.com and sync them to their devices. They can also use in-app credits to buy books to listen to or continue shopping if they don’t upgrade the app.
It’s unclear when Google will allow other companies to offer third-party billing options, or why Audible and Barnes & Noble have taken so long to adjust to Google’s billing policies. One thing is certain: the app store tax battle is far from over.