Google ‘temporarily suspends’ carrier-paid apps in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Google has suspended the purchase of carrier-paid apps in Pakistan via mobile phone owing to nonpayment of outstanding dues, held after the central bank shut down the mechanism of payment, the Ministry of Information Technology & Telecom (MoITT) confirmed Friday.

The MoITT said it would be a temporary suspension.

The dreaded suspension comes in the face of repeated assurances by the Minister of IT Aminul Haque.

A day earlier, on Haque’s advice, the Ministry of Finance approved to release blocked payments to the international service providers, including Google.

During the suspension, users can only download paid apps on Google Play Store through credit card.

“This issue will be resolved within two weeks,” the IT ministry officials said.

The federal IT minister had instructed the authorities to resolve the matter as soon as possible, the officials of the Ministry of IT said.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) suspended payment of $34 million to the international service providers, which could have rendered inbound mobile users unable to download paid Google Play Store services using their mobile balance as a source of payment from December 1, 2022, onwards.

A $34 million payment to the international service providers like Google, Amazon and Meta was suspended after the SBP discontinued the direct carrier billing (DCB) mechanism.

The DCB is an online mobile payment system which enables users to make purchases by charging payments to their mobile phone carrier bill.

Telecommunication companies allow customers to purchase these products through airtime and send funds abroad as fees for acquiring IT-related services.

However, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Finance Tariq Bajwa contacted Haque and shared views regarding the suspended payments.

Later, the IT minister confirmed that the Finance Ministry agreed to release the payments as per schedule.

He assured that “paid Google Play apps will not be suspended in Pakistan,” stating that the Finance Ministry has directed the SBP to delay the implementation of the policy — under which the payments were suspended — for a month.

He said that telecom operators have a month to implement the payment mechanism.

The IT ministry had written to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar seeking a time frame for the said implementation on the telecom operators’ request for the ministry’s assistance, the minister further said. 

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