Google no longer offers paid apps or paid app updates to Russian users. A new support page— first spotted by 9to5Google— reads: “Google Play blocks paid app downloads and paid app updates in Russia from May 5, 2022.”
Many companies have voluntarily shut down operations in Russia in response to Ukraine’s invasion, but Google says it’s not voluntarily ending payments in the country. In March, Google said it was forced to “suspend” its billing system for users “due to an outage in the payment system.” (The wholesale four credit menu The companies voluntarily withdrew from Russia in March following the invasion of Ukraine, which made it virtually impossible for Google to offer paid apps.) Now Google says blocking paid apps is “part of our compliance efforts”.
The page states that “users cannot purchase apps and games, make subscription payments, or make in-app purchases of digital goods using Google Play in Russia.” Free apps will continue to be available and paid apps you’ve already purchased can still be downloaded and used, but any purchases will now display an error message. Subscriptions cannot be renewed and will be cancelled. Because Google only faces a lack of credit card processing, it says payments to Russian developers will continue.
Google has a blog post recapping its efforts to help Ukraine, but continuing to do business in Russia makes it an exception in big tech. Microsoft, Apple, Intel and nearly 1,000 other companies have left Russia, while Google has been accused of being “the most Putin-compliant American tech censor” in a recent Forbes article. One of the reasons Google may be consistent with Russia is that the country has one of the most competitive search markets in the world. Google search is in second place in Russia, second only to the largest Russian technology company, yandex. If Google leaves or is expelled from the country, it risks losing the market entirely.