Sat, Jul 16, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Google, Taipei City still at apps odds

ONE LAW, TWO VIEWS:Google disagrees with the city’s interpretation of the Consumer Protection Act, which it said applies only to physical goods ordered through the post

By Jason Tan  /  Staff Reporter

The dispute between Google Inc and the Taipei City Government continued yesterday as the world’s top search engine giant said it disagreed with Taipei’s interpretation of a local law and that it would continue to suspend paid apps offerings on its Android Market in Taiwan.

“We continue to disagree with the chairman’s interpretation of the Consumer Protection [Act, 消費者保護法] (which was originally intended to protect consumers ordering physical goods by [postal] mail),” Android policy counsel Kenneth Carter said in a statement.

He was referring to Yeh Ching-yuan (葉慶元), director of the Taipei City Government’s Law and Regulation Commission, who represented Taipei in negotiations with the US search giant in the dispute.

The city slapped Google with a NT$1 million (US$34,632) fine on June 27 after a 15-day grace period.

The penalty was based on Google not offering Taiwanese consumers a seven-day refund mechanism as mandated by the Consumer Protection Act, which requires at least seven days of free trial for products purchased over the Web.

Google suspended its paid apps offerings on the Android Market in Taiwan the same day it received the fine — a move that Carter said was “to comply with the government’s request.”

The company yesterday said it would appeal the fine and had notified the city government the suspension would continue while it pursues clarification of the law via Taiwan’s legal system.

“The bottom line is: Google respects Taiwanese law,” the statement read.

“In the meantime, Taiwanese users can still enjoy free apps on Android Market while developers can continue to sell their apps around the world. We hope to bring paid apps back to Android’s many users and developers in Taiwan as soon as the law allows us,” the statement read.

The dispute came as Google subscribes to the stance that its 15-minute trial window for a refund is sufficient and that it has to protect developers’ interests.

“Purchasing apps isn’t the same as buying other types of goods online,” Carter said. “When you get a newspaper delivered through the mail, you wouldn’t expect to read and then return it for a 50 cent refund at the end of the week. You need to wait for a book or a dress you’ve bought to arrive by post, but apps are delivered over the air instantly — you can try them out as soon as you’ve downloaded them.”

Google said it has other refund mechanisms in place to strike a balance between the interests of users and “450,000 developers who build apps for Android Market” and “to help them manage their businesses effectively.”

Some Taiwanese developers, in Google’s own words, feel that Taipei’s proposal for a seven-day trial “would impair their ability to build creative and innovative apps.”

Other refund mechanisms after the 15-minute window include the option to contact the developer directly using Google Checkout’s Purchase History page, and if it bears no fruit, then the app user could file a request to Google via Android Market Support.

The Taipei City Government yesterday said it would give Google two more weeks to reach its final decision. It didn’t state whether it would impose further penalties on Google if the eventual answer was “no.”

“Android Market is an open platform. Apps being sold there don’t need certification and consumers may end up paying for an app that doesn’t live up to what it claims,” Yeh said in a statement. “We will continue to talk to Google to create a ‘triple-win’ for Google, consumers and developers.”

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