Paytm founder and chief executive officer Vijay Shekhar Sharma. Photo: AFP

The battle between India’s most-valued startup Paytm and the search engine giant Google is hotting up after the Paytm app and its fantasy games app Paytm First Games were removed from the Google Playstore for a few hours on Friday.

The Indian digital payments company’s blogpost has described the temporary ban as “arm-twisting,” and said Google’s action was unjustified. Paytm alleged that Google didn’t provide any opportunity to explain its new cashback sticker feature ahead of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, which is current being played in the United Arab Emirates.

“This [removing Indian apps temporarily from the Play Store] will be familiar to all Indian internet companies since they face similar arm-twisting and fear of Google’s dominance over India’s digital ecosystem every day,” Paytm said.

It pointed out that Google’s own digital payments app, Google Pay, has been running a similar promotion for its users. Paytm said Google’s action was defamatory, as it was insinuating that Paytm was running a gambling app.

“We maintain that our cashback campaign was within guidelines, as well as all laws of the land. We did not break any rules and there was no violation. It is not related to gambling in any manner whatsoever,” Paytm said in a detailed blogpost.

In reply, Google has stated that the Paytm app was not pulled from the Play Store for offering cashbacks alone. “Our policies don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting, including daily fantasy sports in India,” the statement added.

Apps that lead consumers to external websites that allow them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes are also not allowed on the Play Store, as per the guidelines. Paytm also runs fantasy sports app “Paytm First Games” and often promotes it within its main app.

Paytm clarified that even though it “strenuously disagreed with the allegation that we are breaching the policy (and we disagree with the policy itself too), we immediately complied with the diktat that barred us from promoting our gaming subsidiary.”

CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma has hinted that “all options,” including legal recourse and seeking government intervention against Google, were open, Economic Times reports.

Mint newspaper had earlier reported that the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports had alleged that Google was favoring certain fantasy gaming apps, hinting at Paytm First Games. This association includes sports technology startup, Dream11, MyTeam11 and Fancode as its platinum members.

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