Lest it be thought that only Apple was capable of pulling a snit over in-app purchases, GigaOm reports that Google has pulled the popular app Visual VoiceMail from the Android Market citing a violation of developer payment rules.

Visual VoiceMail is a free app, but its provider offers premium paid services through a website, just as Amazon and others provide free iPhone apps but sell e-books externally. The app had been available for over two years without any fuss being made over the matter.

There is a decent amount of money at stake: the developer says that credit card companies charge 3-4% to process payments, but if he uses Google Checkout as Google’s terms of service require, he will have to pay Google 10% of his proceeds. Of course, that’s still a far cry from the 30% that Apple charges.

Further, due to the way the Android Market works, there is no way to reinstate the old app—it has to have a new, renamed version uploaded as a completely new application.

“The bottom line is, they said it doesn’t matter what the situation is; the only thing we can do is upload again,” said Jonathan Hollander, EVP of PhoneFusion. “We lose 20,000 comments and all the 5-star ratings and the name Visual VoiceMail; we lose everything. This is absolutely vindictive, that’s insane.”

He also questions why his app is the only one to have Google single it out in this manner; there are a number of other free apps that also provide premium services or sell outside the app and do not use Google Checkout for payment processing. For example, the Kindle and Nook e-book reader applications certainly don’t use Google Checkout.

All that Google had to say in response to GigaOm is that “We remove applications from Android Market that violate our terms of service.” Nice to know that not only Apple can be laconic and capricious.


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