jimmyff

Coder, Maker, Gamer (he/him) πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ

23Dec 21

Google Play banned my highly rated app with no real justification

Part of the 🌟 Eurovision App project.

(I also published this article over at Medium)

Google Play's Policy team is judge, jury and executioner. They didn't give me a real explanation or even a chance to appeal their decision. I share my story in the hope that it reaches Google Play and they reevaluate and improve the way they handle cases like mine.

Banned by Google Play

For the last few years I've filled my evenings and weekends building a fan app dedicated to the 'Eurovision Song Contest' (an annual song competition), it's been my little hobby/passion project. I blogged about it when I launched it and that post received comments and applause from senior Google engineers and the official Firebase Twitter account even tweeted about it. The app has come a long way since then and I totally rewrote the front-end to make use of the lovely Flutter framework. I've translated the app (and even the app store listing) in to every language used throughout Europe (via the paid-for translation service provided by Google Play). The app was probably the most comprehensive app/resource on the song competition with every contest, entry, artist and thousands of photos and videos dating right back to 1956.

One day, entirely out of the blue I received a notice from Google Play saying the app was suspended, it was a generic email and the only bespoke part was highlighted in bold: "your on-device title does not reflect your app's functionality." I've checked the Google Play policy documents and nowhere does it say your apps functionality needs to be reflected in the device titleβ€Š-β€Š(See popular apps: Amazon, Bumble etc …nobody's on device app title reflects the apps functionality, they just use their brand name). My app's on device title was 'EurovisionGP'β€Š-β€ŠGP is a nod to the history of the contest as it was originally called Eurovision Grand Prix. The only reason I can think that Google may have taken issue with my app is due to the inclusion of the word 'Eurovision' (which is part of the trademark Eurovision Song Contest). I'm unsure if this is the case as there are so many apps on Google Play that also include the word Eurovision in their title and they haven't been suspended. I would also have expected the suspension email to be very different clearly stating this as the reason if that was the case.

The EurovisionGP app

I sent the Google Play Policy team numerous emails offering to entirely re-brand (and to even change the on device title to reflect my apps functionality!) and I received a single response from 'Alexis' simply stating that my app would not be reinstated. That was the last time I heard from the Google Play Policy team despite me sending them numerous emails offering anything I could think of to resolve this issue. I even reached out to Albert Y. Cheng (Head of Google Play Global Marketing) and Megumi Takada (Google Play Business Development Manager) and pleaded my case, neither responded.

My app has been offline for 7 months now and Google Play are unwilling to respond to my messages, where does that leave me? It looks like I'll need to follow the guidelines in the suspension email which states that I'll need to start again with a new app, zero installs & zero reviews, and just hope that Google Play doesn't ban the next app too. Their feedback has been so minimal and it's so ambiguous I don't have any confidence that I know what they took issue with. I used to champion Google Play in the 'most developer friendly app store' debate but this whole debacle has left an absolute bitter taste in my mouth. I'll certainly be sharing this story as far and wide as I can in the hope that Google Play improves the way they handle these situations. Google Play has shown an absolute lack of care towards a developer who has invested time, money and effort, lovingly creating an app for their platform. I'm sure I'm not the first person that's had their app banned without real justification and sadly I probably won't be the last...